Generic Medicines in Ireland

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In 2013, Ireland introduced compulsory generic medicines substitution into the country and now, five years on, we’re seeing the real economic impact of that initiative. 

It all started with the introduction of the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013 which introduced generic substitution for the first time for those medicines deemed interchangeable by the HPRA. This Act has led to a big change in medicine usage in Ireland – away from branded medicines to more affordable, but equally effective generic medicines.

Generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs, with the exact chemical substance, that can be sold after the expiry of the patent of the original drug for much cheaper prices.

During this period, there has also been a significant shift in attitudes towards generic medicines amongst stakeholders – prescribers, dispensers and patients. This has translated into an increased uptake in usage.

  • In 2013 generic usage in the Irish medicines market was 11% but that figure has now risen to 58% in 2018. 01
  • Total spend on medicines in 2017 by the Health Service Executive (HSE) was €2.2 billion – the largest single item in the healthcare budget. 01
  • An estimated €1.6 billion in medicine savings realised over the period 2013-2018, solely from generic substitution. 02
  • Average price per pack of medicines in 2018 has fallen by €12, from €18 in 2012. 01

As Ireland’s largest supplier of generic medicines (in volume and in value) 03 Teva is contributing significantly to this increase: 

  • One in seven prescription packs supplied to Irish pharmacies is a Teva pack. 04
  • In Ireland we supply the equivalent of one Teva pack every three seconds. 05

Generic substitution coupled with reduced pricing strategies has given pharmacy an important role as gate keeper in driving the use of cost-effective medicines and saving the state and the patient money. It has delivered tangible results.

Patients have been the primary beneficiaries of this change. Generic substitution provided continued access to medicines for patients at a time when the health service was challenged by the worst aspects of the recession in Ireland. These savings have in turn allowed the Department of Health to reinvest these monies into wider healthcare services and new medicines provision.

We also know that generic medicines stimulate market competition and help to provide Government with the budget headroom needed to deliver more expensive medical treatments and services that patients often need.

Having said that, Ireland continues to lag behind most EU states in our usage of generic medicines; generic penetration of the market stands at 80-90% in many EU states, so there is more work to be done. 01

The medicines supply environment in Ireland has obviously changed significantly in the past five years, Teva as the largest supplier of medicines to the Health Service Executive and a key partner to pharmacy in Ireland, has played an integral part in helping to drive these changes. For example Teva’s “Understanding Generics” initiative in 2013 helped in no small part to make patients aware that generic medicines provided an equally effective but better value alternative to the branded medicine.

The medicines environment will undoubtedly continue to experience change over the coming years. The introduction of new and innovative medicines naturally brings better treatment options for patients and helps to improve outcomes in a wide variety of illnesses. However these new medicines often come with significant increased costs to the state.

Teva understands the need to balance affordability with value and will continue play an integral part in helping to deliver cost effective options for both the HSE and private patients across the state.

Original Teva Ref: IE/CPE/18/0013
Date of preparation: January 2019

References - Correct at date published

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    Based on Medicines for Ireland company and IMS data accessed 05.11.2018

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    Teva Ireland Data on File

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    Teva Ireland Data on File

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    Teva Ireland Data on File

Date of preparation: December 2020
Reference: COB-IE-NP-00027

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