Latviski English По-русски
Saturday 24.03.2018 | Name days: Kazimirs, Izidors

Lithuania’s Health minister tackles exorbitant drug prices

(No Ratings Yet)

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

You better stay healthy in Lithuania for a single reason – the medicine costs an arm and leg in Lithuania. In neighboring Poland, they are twice and thrice lower, thence the shopping carts of hundreds and thousands Lithuanians making the trip over the border for cheaper groceries usually often contain pills too.

Salvage for many

«If not cheaper Polish goods, including medicine, which I buy in Poland’s Suwalki, my life here would be a lot more miserable,» Juozas Kašėta, a sexagenarian- something retiree in Varėna, a sleepy town in the southern part of the country, told BNN.

He says he was recently angered by what he says «out of touch» reasoning by a Lithuanian deputy health minister, who pondered that Lithuanians are «themselves» guilty for extraordinarily high prescription and behind-the-counter dug prices.

«If pharmaceutical companies knew that cheaper medicine sells in Lithuania well, they would definitely lower their prices. But majority of Lithuanians do not want cheaper medicine, therefore the manufacturers lack impetus to reduce them,» the words by Kristina Garuolienė, the vice minister, triggered a backlash from remedies buyers.

Mr Juozas is just one of many Lithuanians to whom the trips to Poland have become a routine. Sometimes, he says, picks up other members of his extended family to share gas costs for the 100-kilometer round trip.

Echoing, Agnė Juodžiukynienė, a dweller in the Prienai district, says that she pays visit to Suwalki at least a couple of times over a half year.

«Once my mum needed prescription shots in her joint. I was flabbergasted to hear from the local pharmacist that it will cost me a whopping 87 euros, whereas in Poland we were able to get such three injections for the price,» she remembered.

Border districts cater to Lithuanian buyers

Last winter, Polish drug stores would sell cold medicine Coldrex for 9-16 zloty, the equivalent of 2-4 euros, meanwhile, in Lithuania, the pack cost in average 4-7 euros.

Betaloc ZOK, a prescription drug to prevent high blood pressure, in Poland costs 36 zloty (6-8 euros), but in Lithuania the price hovers above 10 euros.

Some of the medicine tourists claim that the starkest differences, in terms of prices, are for food supplements. For example, fish oil pills rich with Omega- fatty acids cost 14 zloty (around three euros) over the border. However, in Lithuania, the purchase would thin your purse by 18 euros.

That Lithuanians are valued customers in the neighbouring Polish districts of Suwalki, Sejny and Punk purports a solid fact – knowing Lithuanian there is a big bonus when seeking a pharmacist’s job.

So why the medicine of the border is way cheaper?

Size matters

First, the size matters.

With Poland ten times bigger than Lithuania, the neighbour’s pharmaceutical market enjoys a vibrant competition.

Because of the relatively small market in Lithuania, some of the Lithuanian pharmaceutical companies do not want to pay money for expensive licenses for one or another rarely used drug, but the medicaments can be easily obtained in Poland, where the issue does not exist.

«Our manufacturers claim that obtaining such licenses to register one or another medicine is too expensive for them owing to the fact that few people need it. So on the losing end is the patient,» infers Gintautas Kazanavičius, an endocrinologist.

He says he often recommends his less well-off patients to buy required medicine in Poland.

«For example, remedies that are widely used by my patients cost 46 euros in Lithuania and just 8 euros in Poland,» he said.

The other reason for cheaper remedies in Poland is its lower value added tax for medicine, which stands at 8 per cent there and at21 per cent in Lithuania.

Besides, Poland is home to several big pharmaceutical companies, which, vying for domestic market, can offer medicine at affordable prices.

Minister addresses pharmaceutical industry

Addressing the issue of high medicine prices, Lithuania’s Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga has asked this week pharmaceutical manufacturers to voluntarily lower medicine prices. Previously he mentioned that pharmacies in Lithuania will be put under the obligation of issuing a certain amount of cheapest drugs.

Veryga turned last Tuesday to the Innovative Pharmaceutical Industry Association (IFPA), the American Chamber of Commerce’s Local American Working Group (LAWG) and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, urging them to reduce the producer prices for Lithuania, so that they were under 95 per cent of the average price of generic drugs in reference countries, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

In its efforts to draft the price list of compensated drugs for 2017, the Ministry concluded that declared prices of about 90 percent of the drugs were above the average.

«The draft price list shows that the declared prices for pharmaceuticals for Lithuania are much higher than in other reference countries for unknown reasons. Subsequently, patients are again forced to pay large surcharges for the medication. This should not be the case, as our country has definitely not yet used all the potential of bringing down prices for drugs. It is important to pursue the common goal together,» emphasised A. Veryga. «The government will take a more active role in ensuring that pharmacists would offer the most affordable medication.»

Issues were «maliciously ignored»

The Ministry plans a reform that would include implementation of recommendations from the Competition Council to prevent announcing pharmaceutical prices to interested parties.

According to the minister, currently, pharmaceutical suppliers can easily monitor prices and see little reason to offer more affordable medicine.

Furthermore there are plans to change the formation of the Compulsory Health Insurance Council which decides which medication is included into the list of the state’s compensable medicaments.

President Dalia Grybauskaitė recently said that medication compensation issues in the countries have been ignored and emphasised that the issue was a «test of confidence» for the new health minister.

«Problems regarding government-subsidised medicines have been «maliciously ignored» until now and that this issue will be a test of confidence for the new Health Minister, Aurelijus Veryga,» Daiva Ulbinaitė, the president’s spokeswoman, said to reporters after the head-of-state met with the minister and representatives of supervisory authorities in February.

A discussion at the President’s Office in late January ended with a conclusion that the existing scheme of compensating for medication set artificial obstacles for access of cheaper and more efficient drugs to the national market.

«Shelf tax» schemes

Ramūnas Karbauskis,chairman of Lithuania’s ruling Farmers and Greens Party (LVŽS), has also weighed in on the issue of medicine prices, too, claiming that some largest pharmaceutical  companies act as «shelf tax» collectors in order to conceal discounts provided by wholesalers.

The politician alleges that suspicions are strengthened by the remarkable profitability of two pharmaceutical companies in the country. For example, the profitability of one of them, EVRC, surpasses the profitability of Eurovaistinė roughly ten times.

According to Karbauskis,«shelf tax» is paid by the wholesalers, the pharmaceutical producers and distributers in order to have their medicine be sold in the Eurovaistinė and Camelia chains.

«Shelf tax» limits competition in the pharmaceutical market. Only the medicine of those who pay it appears in the pharmacy chains. Furthermore such a tax can lead to premises to distribute more expensive medicines in the chains,» the LVŽS leader said.

According to him, the ruling Coalition plans to create a workgroup and prepare amendments to the Pharmacy Law, which would limit such malpractice by pharmacies.

Price regulations for medicines were in place in Lithuania more than a decade ago, but the law was abolished in 2002.


Leave a reply

MEP: operations of certain banks in Latvia ruin the country’s reputation

Money laundering is a problem in Latvia, because the activities performed by certain banks ruin the country’s reputation, said member of the European Parliament Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to Rietumu Radio.

Harmony believes education only in Latvian language is discrimination

Members of Harmony’s Saeima faction have turned to President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis with a request to halt the parliament’s newly approved amendments to the General Education Law and Education Law regarding education only in Latvian language.

Opinion: UFG and For Latvia and Ventspils were in favour of Vejonis congratulating Putin

Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis sent his congratulation to the newly-elected President of Russia Vladimir Putin in order to secure political capital for himself during next year’s presidential elections, says Assoc. Prof. Ojārs Skudra from Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Latvia.

Commissioner: Latvia should provide a clear response to situation in its financial sector

The scandal in Latvia’s financial sector has been reported far and wide in the European Union. This is why it is highly important for Latvia to provide a clear reaction to all this, said Vice-President of the European Commission for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Market Union Valdis Dombrovskis.

Don't joke about bombs at Tallinn Airport, they take it seriously

Estonia's largest airport in Tallinn has from early 2017 received 14 threats of the presence of explosives in the air-travel hub, most of which have been discovered to be just jokes said at the wrong place.

Minister: learning in a single education system using state language is only obvious

Education using state language is our way of ensuring sustainable development of our nation, says Latvia’s Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis.

Estonian banks close foreigner accounts in wake of ABLV closure

In the wake of the closure of ABLV Bank in Latvia and alleged money laundering via the Estonian branch of Danske Bank, lenders in Estonia are closing the accounts of foreigners, but this threatens the country's successful e-Residency programme aimed at attracting foreign investors.

Latvian Saeima conceptually supports limiting the Bank of Latvia governor’s authority

The Saeima has supported amendments to the Law on the Bank of Latvia in the first reading. Amendments provide that the term of the bank’s governor, his deputy and council members will be five years, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Baltic shareholders agree to keep Baiba Rubesa in charge of RB Rail

RB Rail CEO and board chairperson Baiba Rubesa will keep her post. This was decided by shareholders during the 22 March meeting. «The supervisory council had previously mentioned the CEO’s contribution to the company’s development. Still, we intend to find solutions and continue realizing Rail Baltica project,» said RB Rail Supervisory Council chairperson Riia Sillave.

Syrian rebel groups in eastern Ghouta announce ceasefire

In the besieged eastern Ghouta territory in Syria, which has been under heavy air strikes and artillery fire for about a month, several opposition rebel groups have agreed to ceasefire.

EU member states on Skripal attack: «Highly likely» Russia was responsible

The European Union has stated it would recall its ambassador to Moscow for consultations after heads of member states and their governments agreed it was very likely that Russia was responsible for the attack with a chemical weapon on a Russian-British double agent.

Weather to remain cold in Latvia until Easter; more snowfall expected

Weather in Latvia is expected to become cold again after a brief period of warmth. Air temperature will drop again at the beginning and the middle of next week; some areas may experience frost again, as reported by Latvian State, Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Farmers in Latvia dissatisfied with resolution of electricity-related problems

Two months have passed since farmers in Latvia had received unjustifiably large electricity bills. Countless meetings and discussions have taken place in those two months. Unfortunately, no decisive measures have been undertaken to resolve the problem. Farmers are confused with decision-makers’ incisiveness in a matter important to the national economy, as noted by the Farmers’ Saeima.

Life after 25 May: is this the end for free publication of photo galleries from events?

Many of us like to check out photos from concerts, conferences or sport events on gallery portals and social networks to have a look at guests of those events. However, after 25 May, when General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, the situation will no longer be the same.

Saeima to establish legal framework for Baltic cooperation in disaster prevention

On Thursday, 22 March, Latvian Saeima supported a legislative draft, ratification of which will help create legal framework with other Baltic States in prevention of disasters, as reported by the parliament’s press-service.

Number of complaints with postal services on a rise in Latvia

Public Utilities Commission has compiled information about complaints submitted by residents in regards to postal services in 2017. The number of complaints has increased alongside opposing views about package terminals – the regulator has received 37 complaints in total.

Output of livestock products in Latvia increased in 2017

Compared to 2016, output of meat grew by 4.6 % and output of milk by 1.4 % in 2017. In 2017, in Latvia 91.2 thousand tonnes of meat were produced, which is 4.0 thousand tonnes or 4.6 % more than in 2016. The most significant increase was observed in the output of poultry (of 11.3 %) and pork (4.7 %).

Turkey's offensive in Syria condemned by NATO ally Germany

Angela Merkel, the head of the German federal government has stated that Turkey’s military offensive in the northern Syrian town of Afrin was unacceptable and she blamed Russia for simply watching, while attacks by Syrian government forces on besieged eastern Ghouta continue.

Finance minister still believes tax reform in Latvia has brought results

«The tax reform has given us the results we had expected, especially in regards to combating envelope wages,» said Latvia’s Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.

Planned hospital reorganisation in Lithuanian regions irks both mayors and patients

If the plan of the Lithuanian Ministry of Health to overhaul treatment services in the provinces does not hit a snag, the rural hospitals will be soon providing only essential care and nursing, the focus will be on out-patient care and treatment will be available only in larger county hospitals.

Ventspils beach high in popularity this week; Lembergs gets spotlight time as well

Ventspils ended up in the spotlight in an unusual way this week: seals washed up on the beach there. Animal Freedom emphasizes that human contact with baby seals would hurt them. Residents are asked to maintain at least 50 m distance from them. However, the suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs decided to take photos with baby seals and publish them on his Facebook profile.

Ombudsman: problems in nursing homes and social care centres are associated with lack of funding

Problems in nursing homes and social care centres are largely associated with lack of funding, because it is not possible to perform high-quality work using currently available resources. This is the responsibility of ministries and the government, as ombudsman Juris Jansons mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Estonian music authors receive record royalties for 2017

The organisation, which is tasked by collecting royalties for local and foreign music in Estonia, the Estonian Authors' Society, has received six million euros in royalties in 2017, which is its record level.

Facebook sorry for permitting exploitation of 50 million user data in politics

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologised for the social network failing to ensure enough privacy to its users that allowed for data on about 50 million of its users to abused by a political consultancy firm.

Zhdanok’s replacement to promote non-citizen matter in European Parliament

Miroslavs Mitrofanovs, who has taken Tatyana Zhdanok’s place in the European Parliament, plans to promote the matter of non-citizens in the institution.

Newest comments