The dispensing of generic medicines in pharmacies generated savings “in excess of 509 million euros” last year, according to data released this Friday by the Portuguese Association of Generic and Biosimilar Medicines (Apogen). Between January and November 2022, according to information available on site for Infarmed, the share of generics was slightly higher than 49%.
“Every second that passes, 16.15 euros are saved for Portuguese families and the State by dispensing generic medicines in community pharmacies”, says Apogen. In a statement, the association states that the savings generated last year represent an increase of 30.3 million compared to the previous year, also being “the highest value in 12 years of accounting”.
“In total, between 2011 and 2022, generic medicines have already allowed the country to save 5.279 million euros”, reads the note, which explains that the data are from the Center for Studies and Evaluation in Health (CEFAR) and the counter online at the site from the Apogen, launched in 2020 through a partnership with the National Association of Pharmacies (ANF). According to the accountant, since the beginning of January until this Thursday, the savings generated by generics already exceeded 65 million euros.
“Savings with generic drugs have increased year after year, surpassing 500 million euros for the first time. This trend demonstrates the performance of these drugs in equitable access of users to health and in the provision of better care”, highlighted the president of Apogen. In the statement, Maria do Carmo Neves stressed that these drugs offer the patient “a clinical benefit, improve their quality of life and allow, in a time of great financial difficulties, better management of their family budget”.
Ema Paulino, president of the ANF, also highlighted the concern of pharmacies “with the sustainability of the SNS” and the “deep understanding” they have, due to their proximity to users, of the “needs and shortcomings felt by the population”. “We will continue, as we have always been, close to people, defending their access to effective, safe and sustainable therapies, just as we remain available to collaborate with the guardianship in the development of incentive models that allow the network to increase the savings already achieved”, said in the same note.
Little progress has been made
Between January and November 2022, according to information available on site from Infarmed Regarding the monitoring of the outpatient market, the share of generics, in units dispensed, was 49.1%. “Practically half of the dispensed medication units correspond to generic medications”, reads in that document. In the first 11 months of last year, a total of 164.7 million packages (all medicines) were dispensed, 7.6% more than in the same period of 2021.
But, despite being cheaper than branded drugs, the evolution of the generics share has been slow and in recent years has been stagnant. According to data available at Infarmed, at the end of 2021 (full year), this share was 48.8%, a percentage identical to that of the previous year. In 2019, it was 48.7%. In 2013 it was at 44.7%.
Speaking last year to PÚBLICO, Maria do Carmo Neves highlighted the sector’s concern with the impact that the increase in costs in the production and distribution of medicines could have on the market, warning of the risk that some of the cheapest medicines could disappear. “Portugal is one of the countries in Europe with the lowest drug prices. Since 2014 we have had a reduction in the price of the generic drug by 67%”, she warned at the time.
Already at the beginning of this year, and after various news reporting the failure of medicines in pharmacies and several players in the sector asking for a price review, the Ministry of Health announced an increase between 2% and 5% for medicines whose sale price to the public goes up to 15 euros. The measure will advance in the first half of this year.
“This is a very significant achievement for the entire value chain, namely users, health professionals and industry. The current situation was unsustainable, as prices had been suffering sharp declines for 20 years, making the market unattractive or unattractive and, consequently, uncompetitive. This moment reflects the permanent work of proximity with the guardianship that is operationalized with the presentation of these measures”, highlighted then, in a reaction to the measure, Maria do Carmo Neves.