The situation in Ireland whereby some generics are 50% more expensive than their branded equivalents has been described as “unique in Europe” and “ridiculous”.

The comments came from Michael Barry, clinical director of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics who told Irish Medical Times of the “extraordinary situation” where patients in Ireland pay a premium for the generic product. He was speaking a couple of weeks after research-based drugmakers in the country cut the prices of almost 300 of their most widely-prescribed medicines by 40%.

That move is aimed at saving the state 94 million euros over the next full year. However, Dr Barry told the newspaper that “doctors are encouraged to prescribe generics on the basis that it enhances cost-effectiveness, but this is no longer the case”. He added that "it is ridiculous – there is no other country in Europe where the original proprietory drugs are cheaper than the generic equivalents”.

Minister for Health Mary Harney recently told the Irish parliament she was disappointed that member companies of the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Ireland (APMI) have not offered any reductions as yet in the price of generics and medicines they supply. She said the government’s current agreement with APMI expires on September 1 this year “and it is my firm intention to obtain savings…of at least an equivalent level to those secured from the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association”, ie the research-based group.

Ms Harney added that “such an outcome would yield savings of approximately 27 million euros in a full year”.