Finland saves when the prices of some medicines fall by 98%

Finnish public care aims to expand the use of generic medicines to create savings.

Most do not pay the full price for their . The ceiling of the benefit company Kela’s self-sufficient medicines is approximately EUR 600 per year. This means that taxpayers pay the rest, which is why the expiration of drug patents significantly changes drug spending.

In April, the price of the anticancer drug lenalidomide fell from € 5,700 to a pack of 150 when a U.S. manufacturer’s patent for a drug marketed under the name Revlimid expired.

Drug patents are typically valid for 20 years from invention.

The generic alternatives were immediately available in Kela’s reference price system, which favors the cheapest alternatives. The system reimburses patients according to the cheapest medicines available.

"In euro terms, the price reduction was exceptionally large," said Terhi KurkoKela’s senior researcher.

The agency has calculated that generic alternatives to lenalidomide alone can save up to € 40 million a year.

Cheap medicines = more nurses?

According to Kurko, Finland could potentially save tens of millions more every year if biologically similar medicines were used more widely. Biosimilars act like brand biologies used to treat cancer using yeast, , or animal cells.

However, Finland is now looking at biosimilar medicines because of their money-saving potential. The SDP government plans to use the money saved on medicines to hire more health care workers to meet tighter treatment quotas.

"Finland is far from the rest of the Nordic in outpatient biosimilar care," said Heikki Bothas Finnish Generic Medicines Association.

He said it is unsustainable for society to pay for branded medicines when cheaper alternatives are available.

"For example, half of rheumatic patients use a branded drug when a cheaper biosimilar is available. If everyone switched to a cheaper biosimilar option, the savings would be € 17 million a year." he explained.

Last month, the set up a working group to study expanding the use of biosimilars.

Although Finland is expected to make savings in the treatment of some diseases when patents expire, the country still spends money on medicines every year. Costs will rise as new treatments for rare diseases become available.

Source: The Nordic Page

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