Friday, 7 May 2010

Finland - How is the Finnish government attempting to contain the rising costs of pharmaceuticals?

A reference price system has been introduced in an effort to reduce the use of more expensive pharmaceuticals.

Several cost-containment measures have been implemented in the past few years. Generic substitution was first implemented in April 2003 and has generated considerable cost savings since then. In January 2006, the government followed the example of other EU member states, and for the first time statutorily cut the approved wholesale prices for all reimbursable pharmaceuticals by 5%.

The most recent measure is the introduction of a reference price system for medicines, which came into force in April 2009. The new system is expected to reduce the use of more expensive pharmaceutical products, thus lowering the costs for patients and reducing the pressure to raise health insurance payments. A recent study has estimated that the reference price system will reduce the costs of medicines in Finland by 10%, while total pharmaceutical expenditure is also expected to fall by 5%. However, the effect of the reference price system on medicinal costs may be less significant than would normally be expected due to the strong price reductions resulting from generic substitution.

Also in April 2009, generic substitution was extended to include medicinal products protected by analogy process patents, which were previously excluded. This will result in further cost savings, but patented original products are entering the generic price competition phase several years before product patents expire in other European countries.

Further reading - A detailed analysis of the Finnish pharmaceutical market is available from Espicom: The Pharmaceutical Market: Finland (published April 2010)

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