Pharmaceutical Union Presents Problems with Access to Medicine, Pharmaceutical Services in Bulgaria

SANDANSKI, SOUTHERN BULGARIA, Feb. 10, (BTA/GNA) – At a news conference here on Saturday, representatives of the Bulgarian Pharmaceutical Union talked about the problems related to access to medicinal products and pharmaceutical services in Bulgaria. Union head Dimitar Marinov said that the organization of pharmacists was set up 17 years ago on February 10.

Union Secretary General Svetoslav Krumov said that one of the Union’s main tasks and goals is precisely the access to medicinal products and pharmaceutical services. The pharmacist’s role is to protect society from overuse of medicine and to reduce public expenditures. Medicinal products should be available in sufficient quantities to meet the patients’ needs but also to be available in pharmacies, and not in warehouses. That requires a well-developed competitive and national distribution network to deliver the medicine.

In Krumov’s words, Bulgaria has not only production and logistics problems but also an issue with statistics on the use of medicinal products. Bulgaria is among the few countries that has no actual idea what that use is, he argued. Data are collected solely regarding the National Health Insurance Fund. The Bulgarian Pharmaceutical Union wants all prescription medicinal products to be prescribed electronically to obtain objective information on what is used and what is necessary.

The prices of medicinal products in Bulgaria are the lowest, often resulting in parallel export. Far more medicinal products should be reimbursed at a higher value, the Union believes.

Krumov presented statistics showing that Bulgaria has 4.13 pharmacies per 10,000 people, compared to the EU-average of 3.23 pharmacies. However, while a pharmacy in Europe has an average of 3 pharmacists working full-time, here there are 2 pharmacists on average and, in some regions such as Pazardzhik (South Central Bulgaria), only 1 pharmacist, if any. Very often, the person working at the pharmacy does not have a Master’s degree in pharmacy. The register puts the number of pharmacists at 5,900 when the estimated required number is 6,637.

Another problem lies in the small number of pharmacies open 24/7: these are only 60 in Bulgaria, of which 27 service reimbursed medicinal products. Also, the available pharmacies are not distributed evenly across the country. Bulgaria has never had a policy ensuring such a distribution. Pharmacists may be growing in number every year, but that does not correspond to a growth in the number of employees at a pharmacy and to the opening of new pharmacies, Krumov said.