23-3-2010 | Epilepsy drugs to be excluded from new generic substitution system

'23-3-2010 | Epilepsy drugs to be excluded from new generic substitution system' image

As many Brainwave members and readers of epilepsy.ie will be aware, Brainwave has campaigned consistently over many years on the issue of generic substitution in epilepsy.

We are delighted to report that our ongoing work in this area has been rewarded!

A meeting organised jointly by the Department of Health & Children and the HSE was today (March 23rd) informed that epilepsy medications would be specifically exempted from the proposed new system of reference pricing and generic substitution.

The announcement was made at a meeting between the Minister's Reference Pricing Working Group and patient representatives by Mr Shaun Flanagan, Chief Pharmacist, National Hospitals Office, HSE. Mr Flanagan told the meeting that all the available evidence supported such an exclusion.

Brainwave warmly welcomes the decision of the working group in relation to epilepsy medications. Brainwave has long campaigned citing international evidence that substituting branded epilepsy medications with their generic equivalents can lead to the recurrence of seizures in some people whose epilepsy was otherwise controlled.

For almost all conditions other than epilepsy, replacing branded drugs with generic copies does not present a significant problem. Similarly, the prescribing of generic epilepsy drugs per se is not a problem when prescribed for new patients and presuming that there will continue to be an adequate supply of the generic available in the long term. The problem exists when an individual with epilepsy is switched from the brand to the generic (or indeed from the generic to the brand or from one generic to another).

Excluding epilepsy medications from the new system will mean that people with epilepsy will not be endangered as a result of having their current medication switched for a generic version.

Reference pricing and generic substitution have been deemed necessary to promote price competition and reduce the costs of medication for both the State and patients. The near future will see a rise in both population and our use of medications. Currently, there are far less generic medications prescribed in Ireland compared to the UK and other European countries, meaning that we are spending far more on pharmaceuticals than other countries. Reducing this spend is a priority for the government and generic substitution is one of the main means of controlling the costs.

The meeting also heard that a significant PR campaign will be launched to inform the public about generic substitution and reference pricing once details of the system have been agreed.

The working group will deliver a full report to the Minister later in the year. Brainwave will continue to keep our members informed of future developments. See also the most recent issue of Epilepsy News (Issue 49).