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Paracetamol and ibuprofen most-purchased non-prescription drugs in Estonia

Räpina Benu Pharmacy in Southeastern Estonia. July 27, 2022.
Räpina Benu Pharmacy in Southeastern Estonia. July 27, 2022. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

Of over-the-counter medicines available for sale at pharmacies in Estonia, those containing paracetamol and ibuprofen were most frequently purchased, data from the Benu pharmacy chain reveals.

Prescription drugs make up the largest part of the overall turnover of pharmaceutical sales, while, according to the statistics from the State Agency of Medicines (Raviamet), anti-tumor drugs brought in the most revenue.

Rainer Kaseväli, franchise manager of Benu pharmacies, told ERR that through the past year, the best-selling over-the-counter medicines for Estonian citizens and residents had been those containing paracetamol and ibuprofen, both to relieve cold symptoms and as pain relievers, as well as various ear, nose and throat-related medicines.

Also widely purchased were a variety of pain relievers in various pharmaceutical versions, eg. tablets and gels.

Following behind cold medicines and pain relievers, there was also a reported higher demand for medicines related to digestion, while anti-allergy products were purchased more seasonally, i.e. in the peak seasons of spring and summer.

"In general, it was a somewhat normal year in terms of over-the-counter medicine sales, and no major changes in customer demand were observed in pharmacies," Kaseväli said.

The Medicines Board has not yet completed its summary of the entire year past, but in the third quarter of 2023, the market volume of pharmaceutical drugs for human use was €109 million, or five percent more than the situation a year ago.

The largest proportion (87 percent) of the pharmaceutical market's turnover derived from prescription drugs, while 13 percent derived from the sale of over-the-counter drugs.

Antitumor and immunomodulation substances constituted the category of medicines with the highest turnover, followed by medicines for the gastro-intestinal tract and for metabolism, and those relating to blood and hematopoietic organs.

These three groups accounted for half of the entire pharmaceutical market turnover in the third quarter.

As for the use of antibiotics, the State Agency of Medicines says that EU-wide, rather than in Estonia alone, their use on animals is falling, while their prescription for human use is on the rise.

As a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the use of antibiotics fell by almost a fifth, but since then it has started to rise again. The use of antibiotics did not show a fall in the first three quarters of last year either.

The market volume of medicines intended for human use has grown steadily in recent years, while in 2022 their turnover stood at €431 million.

This figure reflects wholesale sale prices exclusive of VAT.

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Editor: Karin Koppel, Andrew Whyte

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