TALLINN - A meeting of Baltic health ministers and health policy leaders is to take place in Vilnius on Monday and Tuesday with a focus on the availability of efficient new medicines.
"Baltic states are in a very similar situation. Medicinal products account for a very large share of our health care budgets and are quite expensive for people as well, particularly the newest pharmaceuticals with regard to which patients often have very high expectations," Estonian Minister of Health and Labor Peep Peterson said.
"Health care funding must cover the treatment of tens of thousands of people and there is very little room for expensive tests. This is why it is crucial to share with our partners the information about the clinical benefit of new pharmaceuticals and find ways to procure them at a more affordable price," he added.
The European Union's new health technology assessment regulation provides the basis for engaging in cooperation in the clinical assessment of pharmaceuticals. Peterson noted that it is of great help for small states to be able to rely on data collected and analyzed at EU level when making decisions on compensating the cost of medicinal products.
"It will definitely expedite our access to new efficient medicines. In addition, we see great potential in closer cooperation between the Baltic states in terms of joint medicine procurements," he added.
Similarly to many Central European countries, the Baltic states also spend a large share, some 19-29 percent, of their health care budget on pharmaceuticals, whereas the corresponding average share in the EU is 18 percent. Meanwhile, pharmaceuticals account for the largest part of patients' own contribution in the Baltic states, which means that vulnerable target groups may not be able to afford the medicines they need.
Topics to be analyzed at the meeting include the Baltic states' access to medicines, opportunities and obstacles in joint medicine procurements, the EU's new health technology assessment regulation and options for reducing the own contribution component in the price of pharmaceuticals.
The Ministry of Social Affairs will complete at the end of this year Estonia's new pharmaceutical policy until 2030, and the process of updating the EU medicines regulation will start in early 2023.
The Estonian minister of health and labor will be accompanied at the meeting by deputy secretary general at the Ministry of Social Affairs for health policy Heidi Alasepp, head of the department of medicines at the ministry Eda Lopato, advisers Laura Viidik and Tairi Taht, deputy director general of the State Agency of Medicines Ott Laius, chief specialists at the division of medicines and medical devices at Estonian Health Insurance Fund Kart Veliste and Eveli Bauer and adviser to the minister Maris Jesse. Several international experts from the World Health Organization's Regional Office for Europe and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies and from elsewhere will also take part in the meeting.