Pharmaceuticals sales in Q4 2021 at all-time record

A pharmacy.
A pharmacy. Source: ERR

The pharmaceuticals market reached a record level for the fourth quarter of 2021 (Q4 2021) at €117 million, a rise on year of 23 percent, the State Agency of Medicines (Raviamet) says, with the sale of Covid vaccinations one of the drivers behind the rise.

Janne Sepp, statistics specialist at the agency, told ERR that: "The increase can be interpreted in many ways; naturally, Covid-19 vaccines play a large role here, accounting for seven percent of the increase in turnover, or €8.4 million in financial terms."

"However, in absolute terms, the increase compared with Q4 2020 stood at €22 million, which means that Covid-19 vaccines accounted for only part of the increase," Sepp added. 

Wholesalers dispensed medicines to general pharmacies to the tune of €75 million.

Other medicines to see a significant rise in sales included anti-tumor and immunomodulatory (which make changes to the immune system) drugs and gastrointestinal tract, Sepp said.

The rise was not a surprise, he added, since the trend over the past years has been towards a rise, as well as the growth in costlier medicines arriving in-country.

The start of the Covid pandemic was accompanied by a fall in sales and use of anti-biotics, for instance, as lockdown had its effect on infectious diseases spread, which also fell; since then, antibiotics sales have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, Sepp added.

The market is dominated by wholesalers, such as Magnum Medical, owned by Margus Linnamäe, also majority owner of the Postimees media group; wholesalers' customers are not only general pharmacies but also those in hospitals, government agencies like the Health Board (Terviseamet), the ambulance service and welfare services.

Gerneral pharmacies make up the largest share, with 64 percent of sales in Q4 2021 going to these outlets.

Prescriptions drugs sales stood at €102 million while over-the-counter drugs came to €14 million.

Quarter-by-quarter market volume of (human) medicinal products 2017-2022 in millions. Source: Health Board

A recent survey commissioned and published by the social affairs ministry revealed Estonians' expenditure on medical care and medicines has been rising, with pensioners spending €850 per annum in mediciines (almost two months-worth of state pension) between 2016 and 2019, while the average deductible increased by ten euros per person over those four years.

In 2020 the figure stood at 21.7 percent, significantly higher than the EU average of 15.6 percent in 2018.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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