Patients' preference for brand-name medicines, instead of cheaper copies which use the same ingredients, is increasing the amount the country pays for drugs and medicines, writes Eesti Päevaleht (EP).
The bill for medicines in 2018 was €14.6 million in total, compared with €11.2 million in the first three quarters of 2019.
The active ingredient of the cheaper medicines is often exactly the same, and if they are different, it does not alter the effect of the drug, research suggests. But pharmacists and doctors may not think so, said Ott Laius, head of the Agency's Drug Safety Department.
"It is likely that pharmacists and doctors have the misconception that a more expensive drug is somehow better for the patient," he explained. By law, both doctors and pharmacists are required to advise patients on the content of the drug and its effects, not the company which produces it.
Buying more expensive drugs means a 33 percent mark-up, but in some cases, brand name drugs have been found to be eight times more expensive.
Estonians have overpaid the most for metoprolol for the treatment of hypertension and migraine, EP reported. If a cheaper brand had been used €1.4 million would have been saved.
Although commercial interests could be behind recommending more expensive drugs, Laius believes that the main reason is the opinions of doctors and pharmacists, as well as patients' buying habits.
Editor: Helen Wright