Patients' own expenditure on discount medicines to drop for the first time in 5 years

Estonian Health Insurance Fund
Ministry of Social Affairs of the Republic of Estonia
State Agency of Medicines
Estonian Family Doctors’ Association

In 2010, inhabitants of Estonia paid an average of 0.32 euro (5 Estonian kroons) less for a discount prescription than in 2009. However, the number of people using medicines to treat chronic and severe diseases grew, as did the number of the discount prescriptions bought per person within the year. Hence, people bought more discount medicines in 2010 than a year ago, yet paid less in total.

In 2010, several measures to reduce the patients' own expenditure on medicines were adopted. From April 1, pharmacies are required to offer patients more affordably priced medicines if active substance based medicines have been prescribed. In September 2010, the Health Insurance Fund launched the campaign Erinevus on ravimi hinnas (The difference is in the price of the medicine) to draw patients’ attention to the fact that the prices of medicines with equivalent effects often vary significantly. The aim of the campaign was to reduce the avoidable patients’ own expenditure on medicines by raising the awareness of the population.

Hanno Pevkur, Minister of Social Affairs, noted that the campaign has helped people develop a better idea of their rights, and make choices. “The campaign has done a lot to spread the understanding that patients have the option of choosing the most affordable one from amongst the medicines containing the same active substance. This is definitely one of the reasons why the patients' own expenditure on medicines has dropped," added Pevkur.

According to Mari Mathiesen, a member of the board at the State Agency of Medicines, so far the patients' own expenditure on medicines grew on a yearly basis. “It appeared to be an inevitable trend that is impossible to stop. When summarizing the data for 2010, it was wonderful to see that this is still possible. In 2010, the price per discount prescription was even lower than in 2008. But for the changing behaviour patterns, inhabitants of Estonia would have spent nearly 4 million euro (62 million Estonian kroons) more on discount medicines in 2010. However, we can see further ways of reducing the patients' expenditure on medicines," said Mathiesen.

Kristin Raudsepp, director general at the State Agency of Medicines, said that compared to earlier inspections, the availability of lower-priced medicines has improved at pharmacies, and the share of generic medicines amongst the sold medicines has also grown. In developed countries such as Great Britain, Germany and USA, the share of generic medicines is 65-75%. In Estonia, the share was 34% in 2010, thus, we have plenty of room for improvement,” said Raudsepp.

Ruth Kalda, family doctor and chairwoman at the Estonian Family Doctors’ Association, emphasised that in terms of medical value, any generic medicine is as effective, safe and reliable as the original medicine. “If patients have questions about a medicine, they should discuss these matters with their family doctor. Surely, it is possible to find the right solution together,” encouraged Kalda.
In March, the Health Insurance Fund will continue the campaign Erinevus on ravimi hinnas (The difference is in the price of the medicine), launched in the previous year, to urge people ask for the most affordably priced medicine amongst the medicines containing the same active substances at pharmacies. 

Patient’s expenditure per prescription, in Estonian kroons

Sincerely yours

Evelin Koppel
Public Relations Manager
Estonian Health Insurance Fund
+ 372 620 8439; +372 5347 8949
evelin.koppel [at] haigekassa.ee