New system promises cheaper medications in Latvia

From April 1 doctors will prescribe the cheapest medication based on active ingredients for state compensated medications, saving both the state and residents money, according to State Agency of Medicines (ZVA) Director Svens Henkuzens.

“The active ingredient is what treats the patient, not the name. Side effects aren't from cheaper medications, side effects can be from any medication. There is no trend where cheaper medications have more side effects,” said Henkuzens.

Patients may encounter different packaging when getting their prescription filled, but the director assures everyone that they're getting the correct medication. If you feel that you truly need a different brand it's best to talk to your doctor, and if he agrees he may write you an alternative compensated prescription.

The main goal of the ZVA is for people not to overpay for medication, and for the state to spend the budget in a smart way. If the patient still chooses a different brand than the state compensated one, the doctor can write them a non-compensated prescription.

Taking into account the emergency pandemic situation, patients will be able to receive non-compensated medications with the same receipt. As for access to medications during the crisis, Henkuzens was very blunt that no medication is safe from supply chain barriers.

“It's not improbable that at some moment we could also have a shortage of some medication, but we're really paying a lot of attention so that doesn't happen,” said the director.

ZVA hopes to save patients around 20 million euros in co-payments with the new system promoted by the "Know and Don't Overpay" campaign. The new regulations will also monitor medication stocks, and if the cheapest version isn't available, the pharmacy will give the patient the next cheapest version. Several European countries have already implemented a variation of this system, such as Denmark, Germany, the UK and our neighbors Lithuania and Estonia.

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