Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Primary Care John Brassil says he’s shocked by the HSE’s extremely low take up of biosimilar medicines across all of its drugs schemes.

New figures releases to me via Parliamentary Question reveal that just over €2.2m was spent on biosimilar drugs in the past three years compare to a whopping €1.2bn on biologic medication during the same period.

As defined by the European Medicine Agency, a ‘biosimilar’ is a biological medicine that is similar to another biological medicine that has already been authorised for use.

Deputy Brassil said, “The government has the potential to save tens of millions of euro by replacing certain biological drugs with biosimilar medication. This is the practice in the majority of other EU countries; in fact in some biosimilar usage is as high as 90%.

“Considering the huge cost implications for the State, I find it shocking that the government and the HSE have failed to increase the take up of biosimilars. The figures released to me are truly shocking. More than €300m could have been saved if the HSE switched over to biosimilars – savings which could be utilised elsewhere.

“Patient groups advocating for life changing drugs will be deeply frustrated by these findings. €300m would go a long way to making drugs like Spinraza available to spinal muscular atrophy sufferers.

“We need to see doctors given the option to prescribe biosimilars. If this were to happen it would see more competition in the market which would result in cheaper prices for both patients and the State. These saving could then be reinvested in health services.

“Ireland has one of the lowest take up rates of biosimilars across Europe, and as a result we are missing out on huge cost savings.

“The HSE and the government cannot continue to ignore biosimilars, especially when these drugs cost a fraction of branded medications. These drugs present an opportunity to make substantial savings, which could see much needed funds freed up for our already stretched health service”.