Elderly women in a pharmacy in June 2011. The Finnish Pharmacists’ Association on Monday warned that over 40 per cent of pharmacies are at risk of bankruptcy due to the cost savings pursued by the government. (Jussi Helttunen – Lehtikuva)

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OVER 40 PER CENT of Finnish pharmacies are at risk of going bankrupt due to the cost savings pursued by the government of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP), warns the Finnish Pharmacists’ Association.

The government is intent on shaking up the regulatory environment of pharmacies in order to generate 30 million euros in annual savings.

Its action plan states that some of the most commonly used self-medication products should be made available outside pharmacies – a revision that, according to the interest group, will cost pharmacies 10–50 million euros. It has also decided to modify the reimbursement scheme for medication costs, including in terms of its reference price system, to generate 50 million euros in cost savings starting in 2025.

The scheme will be hit with another 10 million euros in cost savings in 2027.

The Pharmacists’ Association on Monday warned that the cuts will force pharmacies to adjust primarily by slashing staff costs, which make up nearly 60 per cent of their operational costs. The cuts could consequently result in the deterioration of pharmacy services and a reduction in opening hours.

“Every year, the pharmaceutical counselling provided by pharmaceutical experts working in pharmacies saves roughly a billion euros in other parts of the health care system,” argued CEO Merja Hirvonen. “Holding on to pharmaceutical counselling in pharmacies is worthwhile because without it more and more people will seek out congested health care centres and emergency rooms.”

The costs of pharmacy operations, the association added, are set to decrease also without spending cuts due to the expansion of the substitution scheme for biological drugs and the expiry of patents on new blood thinners.

The pharmacy economy is in need of a structural reform, according to the Pharmacists’ Association. The interest group is calling for less bureaucracy and financial incentives that encourage pharmacists to open side branches. The tax on pharmacy operations, it believes, should also be amended to be levied on gross profits rather than revenue.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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