olish sales of parallel-imported medicines leapt 89% to a value of $22 million last year, with the number of drugs approved for import having more than doubled.

In terms of volume, last year’s growth in parallel imports reached 109% to total 4.9 million units, and the trade now accounts for 0.5% for Poland’s overall pharmaceutical market, according to a new analysis from IHS Global Insight. The prices of these products can be as much as 60% less than the “official” versions, and seven parallel imports are now listed on the government’s reimbursement list, at retail prices which are 30% lower than their official levels.

Another recent report on the Polish pharmaceutical sector, from Research and Markets, estimates that “official” imports account for 66% of total drug sales in the country, and says that France and Germany supplied more than 30% of this total in 2006.

19 companies are authorised to operate as parallel importers in Poland, but three of these specialise in veterinary products and only half of the total number are currently operating. The top five firms – Blau Pharma, Delfarma, Forfarm, InPharm and Inter Pharma – presently account for 92% of the market in terms of value, says IHS.

The number of drug products authorised for parallel import into Poland has increased significantly in the last few years. In 2004, the year in which parallel imports were first introduced into the country, the Polish Medicines Registration Office (URPL) authorised just two such products, but in 2005 it authorised 40 more, a further 63 in 2006, 80 in 2007 and a further 165 in 2008, bringing the current total to 350, according to IMS Health data reported by Pharma Poland News.

In addition, the number of applications to parallel-import medicines into Poland went up from 16 in 2004 to 456 last year, with the largest number of applications coming from the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Spain, Portugal and the UK, reports the government agency.

Poland’s association of parallel drug importers, SIRPL, has been forecasting that this fast market growth could increase its members’ share of the national market to as much as 2% over the next few years. However, latest indications are that these developments will not in fact continue into 2009, the report forecasts, as the steep decline in the value of the zloty has forced a rise in the prices of many parallel-imported products, and a number have disappeared from the market altogether.