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Finnish drug regulation needs overhaul finds LSE review

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Photograph of drug tabletsOver prescribing, high user charges and lack of transparency in pricing - just three of the problems that have made Finland one of the world's leading countries for high drug expenditure.

An LSE policy review has found that improvements to the Finnish regulation system of pharmaceuticals are vital to offset these rising costs whilst maintaining quality of care.

In Pharmaceutical policies in Finland - Challenges and Opportunities, LSE Health academics Professor Elias Mossialos| and Divya Srivastava identified a number of problems with the current system including:

  • high levels of prescribing many medicines to the elderly which increases the risk of adverse reactions to drugs
  • irrational prescribing and high prevalence of over prescribing, particularly in institutional settings
  • high level of user charges places a disproportionate burden on patients, which could affect access and quality of care
  • lack of transparency in pricing and reimbursement decisions
  • poor capacity to assess therapeutic value and cost effectiveness of a medicine

Yet despite the challenges within what is a very developed system of pharmaceutical regulation, the report recommends practical solutions to strengthen the existing structure, which include:

  • greater coordination between regulatory authorities
  • capacity building, particularly in health economics and clinical pharmacology
  • stronger incentives for doctors and pharmacists in prescribing and dispensing appropriate and good quality medicines
  • increased information sharing for implementation of policies
  • policies to consider the current challenge of the two public streams of pharmaceutical financing (social health insurance and municipalities)

Professor Mossialos, lead author of the report said: 'The report offers a range of views from an international perspective and looks in detail at issues concerning the regulatory environment, considering the broader implications of health-policy planning rather than pharmaceutical policy in isolation.

'The findings consider the context of this environment with respect to policy implications of both supply and demand side policies, including the regulatory environment; actors in the provision of services; expenditure patterns; implications for patients; prescribing trends; consumption patterns; price trends; and information technology systems.

Divya Srivastava, co-author of the report added: 'It is intended that this study might stimulate further debate on the continuing development of pharmaceutical policies.'

Mr Kari Välimäki, permanent secretary, Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health wrote: 'We are very grateful to Professor Mossialos and Ms Divya Srivastava for a review that is both comprehensive and in-depth, much beyond our initial expectations.'

Click here to download a copy of Pharmaceutical policies in Finland - Challenges and Opportunities.| (PDF)


Elias Mossialos, professor of health policy, director of LSE Health| at LSE, and co-director of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies at e.a.mossalos@lse.ac.uk| or by calling 020 7955 7564.

Esther Avery, LSE Press Office at e.avery@lse.ac.uk| or by calling 020 7955 7060


The policy review Pharmaceutical Policies in Finland - Challenges and Opportunities was prepared at the request of the Health Department, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finland. Published by the World Health Organization 2008, on behalf of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.

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