In January, social affairs and health ministries in Finland and Estonia announced that it would be possible for Finnish residents to purchase prescription medication in Estonia and vice versa.
The system took effect almost immediately for Finnish residents. The result is that medicine has joined other products such as alcoholic beverages on lists for shopping trips to the Estonian capital.
In July, drugs were dispensed via e-prescriptions at Estonian pharmacies roughly 830 times. In August, another 700 e-prescriptions were filled in Estonia, followed by 630 in September and another 700 in October, making for a total of 5,700 prescriptions picked up.
This is still a small number compared to as many as six million prescriptions dispensed in Finland every month.
Permission to share health info required
Finnish residents who opt to purchase prescription drugs in Estonia only need to ensure that they have granted permission to share their health records and prescription data in the online health database, Omakanta. In addition, they must present a valid form of identification.
"The biggest obstacle to dispensing prescriptions abroad has been that the customer had forgotten to agree to share data with pharmacies abroad. Another reason is in cases where the total quantity of a prescription has been defined in writing, for example as a two-year prescription," said customer relationship head Sini Palo of benefits agency Kela’s Kanta service.
Since the end of June, it has also been possible to purchase prescription medication at Croatian pharmacies. However the number of prescriptions handed out there has so far been minimal.
Customers would do well to be aware that when they buy prescription drugs abroad, the products may have different names.
"A doctor may prescribe medication using the commercial name or the active ingredient. It’s rare that you will get a drug with the same name; rather it will be switched for something similar," Palo explained.
Not for drugs affecting central nervous system
It’s not possible to get all types of prescription drugs abroad, however. For example, it is not possible to purchase drugs that affect the central nervous system, or so-called CNS-affecting drugs.
As a result, people planning to take overseas trips are advised to purchase the required quantity of drugs with the relevant documentation in their country of origin. On the other hand, patients can also be provided with a written prescription for use abroad.
Refunds for medical expenses such as prescriptions are not available from Kela immediately, but travellers can use their sales receipts to apply for them once they have returned to Finland.
"With respect to e-prescriptions, a receipt and any possible printouts from the pharmacy are usually enough," Kela’s Palo advised.