Cheaper drug alternatives a success among Finns

Generic substitution (GS) is an important way of increasing the use of generics and thereby decreasing medical costs. GS was introduced in Finland in April 2003: according to the Finnish Medicine Act 80/2003, pharmacists are obligated to substitute the cheapest or close to the cheapest medicine for prescribed medicine unless the patient refuses or the physician forbids substitution, which the physician may do for medical or therapeutic reasons. In order for the introduction of GS is to decrease medical costs, patients need to accept this procedure.

A study conducted at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Eastern Finland explored the opinions and attitudes of Finnish people about GS five years after it was introduced and the study was interested in why patients as a whole substitute their medicines and which medicines they substitute most commonly.

A postal survey was sent to a random stratified population sample of 3000 Finnish people aged at least 18 years in 2008 and the response rate was 62%. According to the majority of the Finnish population (70.9%), GS was a good reform. However, there were still many respondents who were unsure about their opinion. Younger respondents regarded GS more positively than older respondents, who were more often unsure about their opinion than younger respondents. The respondents also held the opinion that cheaper medicines are effective (80.9%) and that GS does not cause any risk to drug safety (84.9%). Most of the respondents (88.4%) who had substituted their medicines had not noticed any difference between the previously used and substituted medicines. Two main reasons for substituting were a desire to save money and recommendation by pharmacists.
The results of the study indicate that Finnish people consider GS a good reform and that patients experienced cheaper medicines effective and not causing any risk to drug safety.

For further information, please contact Professor Riitta Ahonen, tel. +358 50 3637902, riitta.ahonen (at)

Original article:
Heikkilä R, Mäntyselkä P ja Ahonen R: Do people regard cheaper medicines effective? Population survey on public opinion of generic substitution in Finland. Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety 2011:20:185-191,
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Artikkelin kirjoitusvuosi: 2011

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