Prices on some medications have been slashed up to 70 percent, as Macedonia becomes a destination for pharmaceutical tourism.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 22/10/12
For the second time this year, the government in Macedonia has reduced the prices of many common medications. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
For the second time this year, Macedonia's government has slashed medication prices, making drugs significantly more affordable and further establishing the country as a hub of so-called pharmaceutical tourism.
The ministry of health does not have statistics on the numbers of foreign customers at Macedonian pharmacies. But government officials and pharmacy owners in towns near the borders with Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania said many customers come from those countries to buy their medications, which are now much cheaper in Macedonia than elsewhere in the region.
Among the price cuts to 365 medications that went into effect this month, drugs used to treat cardiovascular diseases are 70 percent cheaper than before, while antibiotics have been reduced by 18 to 40 percent. The most recent changes followed February price cuts that reduced the cost of 1,290 medications.
Macedonia's Minister of Health Nikola Todorov said the February reductions saved customers 3.8 million euros.
"The citizens will have benefit from this the most, for medications they buy and pay from their own money," Todorov said. "This is result of the well-set health system, which is released from the problems the other neighboring systems face."
Todorov added that all medications that have been subject to price cuts are of high quality.
"Those are medications with appropriate standards for quality, reliability and efficiency, and what is most important is that with this the presence of medications produced by reputable pharmaceutical industries will be maintained," he said.
In Debar, near the Albanian border, pharmacy owner Muharrem Dovojani told SETimes that he regularly has customers from several Albanian towns.
"They buy medications because a part of them are cheaper, even for 30 percent, from the ones in Albania," Dovojani said. "They also come because of the safety and quality of the medications here. On our medications there is [the] production date and shelf life."
Some come to Macedonia to buy large supplies of their medications.
"Recently a tourist from Slovenia came and bought medications for six months [of] therapy," said Pavlina Ljatko, a pharmacist at the Marifarm pharmacy in Ohrid. "He said that the drugs here are much cheaper than in Slovenia, about 10 euros or so. Albanians, Greeks, Serbs, they all come here to buy for a longer period. They mostly buy antibiotics, Ranital and other medications."
In Delchevo, near the border with Bulgaria, pharmacy owner Zaklina Petrovska said customers stock up on vitamins and analgesics.
"We come here almost every weekend from Blagoevgrad to buy medications from your pharmacies, but also to buy other products," said Gergana Boristova. "It is true that here the prices are lower than in Bulgaria, and I also know a lot of friends who often come in Macedonia to buy the needed products."