Pharmaceutical costs can be reduced by developing regulation of the pharmaceutical market and pharmacies

The new study identifies a number of potential targets for reducing pharmaceutical costs and developing pharmacy operations by improving market regulation and the operating environment for doctors. A joint VN Teas study by Etla Economic Research, Aalto University, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and VATT Institute for Economic Research investigated the operation and regulation of the prescription drug markets in outpatient care as well as the duties and operation of pharmacies in social and health care.

The results based on wholesale prescription drug data show that the real growth in outpatient prescription drug costs in Finland has been strong during the past 20 years. The vast majority of outpatient prescription drug costs, approximately 80%, were caused by originator medicines. After the expiry of patent protection, originator medicines do not engage in price competition as strongly as generic medicines. There is very little parallel importation of medicines in Finland. Regulation measures to reduce prescription drug costs and promote rational medical treatment, based on the results and literature is also discussed in the study.

The study states that strict regulation of the pharmacy system may impair pharmacists’ incentives to develop their services. The study shows that opening hours and the range of pharmaceutical and health services offered varies between pharmacies. They mostly offer various types of medication use reviews and dose dispensing services. Development of services is slowed down by fragmented nature of the pharmacy system as well as lack of national steering. In the future, national steering of services could either be based on pharmacies’ statutory tasks or on economic incentives. Assessment of the pharmacy system requires clear objectives and appropriate indicators.


This publication is part of the implementation of the Government Plan for Analysis, Assessment and Research.

The permanent address of the publication