Fianna Fáil TD for Longford-Westmeath Robert Troy is accusing the Government of dragging its feet and wasting an opportunity to provide a life-saving drug to people who were accidentally infected with Hepatitis C as a result of State supplied blood products.
Deputy Troy has been calling for an early access programme for patients following the emergence of a new drug, which offers a 90% chance of eradicating the virus. However, in reply to a Topical Question on the issue Minister for State Kathleen Lynch revealed that the expert group analysing the budgetary impact of funding the new drug will not report back until mid-October.
The Longford Westmeath TD commented, “As the Minister waits for the publication of the Health Technology Assessment report patients infected with Hepatitis C are steadily deteriorating. One of my constituents, who asked me to intervene in this matter, is already living with established liver cirrhosis and has developed a complication of this called ‘ascites’ as a result of a contaminated blood transfusion in 1994. Advances in medicine have led to new direct acting antiviral (DAA) drugs coming on the market and early access programmes have been approved and established by the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales providing life-saving therapy to the most critical patients.
“The longer the Minister and the HSE continues to stall on the roll out of similar programmes here, the worse the prognosis for these extremely ill patients becomes. Time is not on their side and they cannot afford to wait months or even years for this treatment. Despite the announcement today by Minster Lynch that the assessment report will be available in mid-October, no timeline has been outlined for the establishment of an early access programme.
“These are people who were infected because of a medical blunder caused by the State. The then Health Minister Michael Noonan promised them the best possible care and treatment, however his colleagues in the current Government seem reluctant to pursue a programme that could radically improve their quality of life. The main drug used in these early access schemes has recently been licenced in Europe and is proving to be highly cost effective in other countries. The delay in approving it here is unacceptable and could cost lives”.