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Irish industry gives cautious welcome to biopharma jobs plan

Sector still faces unprecedented challenges that 'must be addressed', says IPHA

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) has welcomed the government's new jobs plan but says the sector still faces “unprecedented challenges” that must be addressed.

In a joint briefing this week with PharmaChemical Ireland, the industry associations called on the government to work with them on developing sustainable policies to secure and bolster the future of “Ireland's greatest economic success story”.

Published last week, the Irish government's Action Plan for Jobs is a wide-ranging plan aimed at rebuilding the country's economy and creating over 100,000 new jobs by 2016.

It identified a number of sectors the government expects to be key to job creation, among them life sciences, and set out plans for a “health innovation hub”.

This would be tasked with encouraging co-operations between the country's health system and businesses, “leading to the development of new technologies, products, services and companies”.

Other measures in the Action Plan for Jobs include:

• Setting up new pharma, medical devices and 'connected health' research centres, with preparations to begin before the end of this year
• Providing a “local high-quality, wide-scope, responsive CE mark” to position the country as a global centre of excellence for the medical devices industry
• Establishing technology centres linked to pharmaceutical production and medical device manufacturing.

IPHA president David Gallagher yesterday acknowledged the need to make savings in the health budget, but said this burden must be fairly shared and that any savings must be balanced against ensuring Irish patients can access innovative medicines.

“We are producing innovative, cost effective, much needed new medicines which unfortunately in many cases are not reaching Irish patients as the government is not reimbursing them."

According to IPHA the Irish biopharma industry currently employs over 25,000 people, the industry accounts for over 50 per cent of Irish exports (€51 billion) and half of all corporation tax.

“We have made a significant contribution to government savings with €300m delivered under the current agreement since 2006 and an additional €240m delivered in 2010/11 in recognition of the exceptional budgetary constraints, on the express understanding this would ensure that access would be secured for new medicines. This has not happened,” Gallagher said.

He said the country's pharma market had experienced a “significant decline” and was now under severe pressure and not in a position to endure further price cuts without a very negative impact on employment and future investment.

PharmaChemical Ireland is part of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC), represents the chemical and pharmaceutical industry in Ireland. Its director Matt Moran said government policy needs to urgently recognise the “very serious challenges” facing the industry.

"Our healthcare policy must support access to innovative medicines and medical technologies that are developed in Ireland. It is vital that the government continues to take a long-term view of the overall cost of healthcare.

“Medical treatment funding is regarded as an investment in the nation's health and economic prosperity. Such an approach will send a positive signal to pharmaceutical companies."

Eight of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies have major operations in Ireland and its low corporation tax rate has made it an attractive location, particularly for pharma manufacturing.

Over the last year a number of pharma and biotech companies have invested in the country, including Abbott - €85m to expand its Sligo manufacturing facility; Allergan - $350m to expand its development and manufacturing facility in Westport; and Amgen, which acquired Pfizer's manufacturing facility in Dun Laoghaire. Meanwhile, Pfizer itself invested $200 million at its Grange Castle biotechnology site.

24th February 2012

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