Minister: Latvian residents have been unhappy with high prices on medicines for years

Large pharmacy chains are scaring residents by saying that smaller pharmacies will not survive. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health is already working with representatives of small pharmacies to ensure changes not only help them reinforce their independence but also promote the role and place of pharmacists in the entire healthcare system, LETA was told by Minister of Health Hosams Abu Meri.
He admits that residents have been unhappy with the high prices on medicines when compared to Lithuania and Estonia for a long time. Multiple previous ministers of health and several competent institutions – the World Health Organisation (WHO), Competition Council, State Audit, Ministry of Economy, Ombudsman’s Bureau – have analysed the situation very deeply and have provided their recommendations to add changes to the pharmaceutical sector to review both the price-formation for medicines and the list of compensated medicines.

Institutions also pointed out the unequal price of medicines in situations when diagnoses are different,

specifically when one patient is eligible to compensated medicines in the case of one diagnosis, and a different patient is not provided with compensated medicines in the case of a different diagnosis. Abu Meri stresses that this is unfair.
“Knowing how critical timely and correct use of medicines is, and that state financing of medicines is very focused, when I became minister, I reviewed all reports and recommendations from competent institutions. I am certain that there is enough information to work with. We have to start acting – we need an action plan for mutually related activities to provide long-term changes,” said the minister.
According to him, in the first week of his term he commenced talks with industry representatives. He also held meetings with the biggest sector members – retailers, medicines producers and pharmacies, including small and vertically-integrated enterprises – to discuss their proposals.
“We asked representatives of this sector to provide their proposals. They did. And we looked at them and compiled them. In parallel to that, during the term of the previous government we had commenced work on a conceptual report from WHO based on the analysis of inequality on the Baltic medicines market and contributing factors. The sector provided us with many valuable proposals to help improve the pharmaceutical sector’s regulatory framework,” said the minister.
He explained that he considers this work valuable and specific proposals worth looking into to improve the availability of medicines. The decision was ultimately made to continue work in this direction and continue development of a focused action plan for 2024.
Abu Meri said that in most of European countries all prescribed medicines are compensated, and it is the proposal from the Ministry of Health to establish in the second half of 2024 a 5% compensation for prescribed medicines in Latvia and keep increasing the compensation amount for prescribed medicines every year after. However, after repeated discussions with the sector’s organisations the decision was made to stop this specific proposal. The reason is because the sector is not ready for that.
“Large pharmacy chains are publicly scaring residents that small pharmacies will not survive. Meanwhile, we and representatives of small pharmacies are already working constructively to ensure that as a result of the changes, pharmacies, especially small ones, which also perform a social function in less populated areas, not only strengthen their independence, but also promote the place and role of the pharmacist in the entire healthcare system. We’re also working on approaches that would be needed to limit irrational drug use,” said Abu Meri.
He said that the action plan prepared to be submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers does not contain any detailed and accurate solutions, as they will require additional discussions with the sector. One exception is the proposal to set at least a 75% compensation for compensated medicines from the 1st of July 2024 onward.
“It is this government’s and my own belief that an increase of funding should carry with it systemic changes. The increase of state funding for medicines in 2024 is notable. As I mentioned earlier, the analyses carried out by the competent authorities and the ministry in cooperation with the WHO are convincing, the industry itself recognises that changes are necessary by submitting many very valuable proposals,” stresses the minister.
Also read: Financial troubles. Daugavpils Hospital may be the first to be taken over by Latvian state
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