Potential changes in Lithuanian pharmaceutical industry: state owned pharmacies are coming on to the market

On 27 March 2019, the Lithuanian Cabinet of Ministers approved Resolution No XIIIP-1939 drafted by the Ministry of Health (in Lithuanian), which proposes expanding the functions of state owned health care institutions.

The Government of Lithuania has approved an amendment to Article 35 of the Lithuanian Law on Pharmacy No X-709 (in Lithuanian) by which state owned health care institutions will be allowed to establish pharmacies. These pharmacies will be financed through state resources (ie, state or municipality owned buildings will become available; activities of these pharmacies will be financed either by the state or municipalities, etc.); state owned pharmacies will be engaged in commercial activities, such as selling pharmaceuticals to hospitals (their parent companies), as well as to all other customers.

However, there is widespread dissatisfaction from both private and public sectors regarding the latter amendment. The Lithuanian Competition Council has expressed concerns that this amendment might bring negative effects on competition, ie, private pharmacies that currently operate in health care institutions will be forced to leave and will be replaced by state owned pharmacies. In addition, there is a risk of cross-subsidisation, ie, state owned health care institutions may use funding granted by the state for provision of health care services to subsidise the activities of their pharmacies.

The amendments need to be approved by the Lithuanian Parliament and may still be subject to changes.

Lithuanian government adopts legislative amendments in order to reduce administrative burden on medical practitioners

On 15 May 2019, the Cabinet of Ministers of Lithuania approved Resolution No 19-5002 drafted by the Ministry of Health (in Lithuanian), which proposes to ease the administrative burden for doctors. More specifically, the government has decided to amend the requirements for issuing and registering medicinal licences for doctors, nurses, midwives, masseurs, physiotherapists and ergo therapists and medical psychologists.

The most important change concerns applying for and registering medicinal licences: these will henceforth be entirely electronic. In addition, doctors and other medical practitioners mentioned above will no longer be required to collect and submit the documents contained in state registers or other state information systems (for example, documents certifying acquisition of professional qualifications). It was also agreed that the Medicinal Licences Register should be managed by a single authority, namely the State Health Care Accreditation Agency under the Ministry of Health. Until now, the Medicinal Licences Register was jointly managed by the latter agency, the Lithuanian Dental Chamber and the State Medicines Control Agency. The changes will come into force from 1 September 2019.

Parliament approves rules regarding disclosure of contributions to healthcare professionals

On 28 May 2019, the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania approved a proposal by the Ministry of Health No XIIIP-3255 (in Lithuanian), according to which manufacturers and distributors of registered medicinal products will be obliged to publicly disclose information on their support to healthcare institutions, as well as doctors and pharmaceutical professionals. The proposed amendments to the Law on Pharmacy (in Lithuanian) would come into force from 1 January 2020 if the President of Lithuania accepts them.

According to the relevant procedure adopted last year, advertising medicinal products for healthcare professionals is not allowed in person. However, manufacturers and distributors of drugs find other ways to establish a personal relationship with doctors and pharmaceutical professionals. For example, they organise professional events under the Law on Charity and Support No I-172 (in Lithuanian) or pay healthcare professionals for consultations and reports.

Thus, in order to make healthcare institutions even more transparent and dispel any mistrust, various forms of cooperation between manufacturers and distributors of registered medicinal products will be publicly accessible from 1 January 2020 following their acceptance by the President of Lithuania.