Pharmaceutical sales in the Czech Republic grew 9.62% by value last year to total $4.96 billion, and while the market saw a dip in terms of volume, this was only by 1.83% compared to 2008’s decline of 7.8%, say government figures.

Last year’s rate of market growth in terms of value was consistent with 2008’s increase of 8.32%, according to the annual healthcare report published by the Czech Institute of Health Information and Statistics (UZIS), using data from the Czech State Institute for Drug Control (SUKL).

The biggest rise in sales by therapeutic category during the year was for oncology drugs, which increased 21.19% to 13.373 billion koruna ($75.6 million), and overall the highest sales rises were reperted for innovative and expensive new drugs, many of which are continuing to be added to the official list of reimbursed medicines.

However, analysts at IHS Global Insight do not expect this trend to continue this year or into 2011, given next year’s expected healthcare funding shortfall of 15 billion koruna, although they also note that price reductions imposed by SUKL have increased access to medicines for greater numbers of people, and such repricing activities may continue.

The price cuts may also be behind last year’s much smaller drop in volume sales, they add; another possible cause could be that in 2008 (when the volume market declined 7.8%) the controversial introduction of fixed co-payments for healthcare services, including a charge of 30 koruna for each prescription item, were introduced. Patients may have become used to these unpopular charges, the analysts suggest, and also pointing out that many regions actually reimburse patients for their fixed co-payments.

Sales in Czech pharmacies rose 8.62% to 71.7 billion koruna, the overwhelming majority of which is accounted for by reimbursements from health insurers. Such reimbursements relating to medicines increased 10.77% to 48.22 billion koruna.

The data also show that Czech national spending on health care grew 8.36% to 286.6 billion koruna in 2009 (compared with a rise of 9.43% the previous year) and accounted for 7.9% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), up 0.73 percentage points on 2008. Pharmaceuticals accounted for 27.8% of total health care expenditures last year.

- Meantime, the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS) reports that consumers in the Czech Republic are Europe’s highest spenders on medicines but they spend the least on visits to health care professionals.

During a four-week period, 60% of Czech women and 42% of men took medicines which their doctors had prescribed or recommended, and 34% of patients paid for their medicines. Average spending on medicines was 408 koruna per capita for the month.

The average Czech citizen spent 463 koruna on health care overall during the four weeks although 10% paid more than 1,000 koruna, says the study. Average gross monthly pay in the Czech Republic is 23,500 koruna.