In Croatia, today’s self-medication trend is becoming more widespread. People are increasing aware of the importance of caring for one’s own health, seeking advice and information and wanting to actively participate not only in preventing but also in treating particular symptoms and illnesses. The profession’s view today is that in the case of minor health problems, visiting a doctor is not necessary, instead people can consult with a pharmacist, or get over-the-counter medicines and medical products. The advantages of self-medication is the earlier treatment of symptoms where the onset of serious illnesses are prevented or delayed, visits to the doctor are reduced and indirectly less cost of treatments with prescription drugs, as well as lowering the rate of sick leave, where besides having a positive effect on people’s health, we are also able to reduce the costs of public healthcare.

Self-medication is the most important role of pharmacists, thanks to their knowledge and competency as well as lifelong learning and the pharmacist’s approachability for patients, where they are able to provide advice, information which is objective, verified, and exact, relating to the suitability of drugs and medical products for self-medication. An indisputable fact today is that the modern pharmacy gravitates towards prolonging the lifespan of people and increasing the quality of human life. Consequently, today the task of healthcare workers is to promote healthy living and self-medication. The task of the pharmaceutical industry is to bring onto the market high quality, relevant, reliable and effective drugs, medical products and food supplements. In that regard, one of the main challenges is setting high ethical standards in business and also creating trust in patients.  We want to establish a partnership with pharmacy teams to create trust where the advice and information which patients receive in pharmacies is based on the best knowledge, experience, evidence of effectiveness and harmlessness, and which is specific for each patient. Another role of the pharmaceutical industry is to make over-the-counter drugs more available to the population.

We in the Croatian Association of the Self-Medication Industry support the Croatian Government’s decision to apply the same VAT rate for prescription drugs (those at the expense of the Croatian Institute for Health Insurance as the VAT rate for over-the-counter drugs which is now 5% as of 1 January 2019. For instance, relevant bodies had awarded certain drugs (when first marketed) the status of prescription drugs, whereas later the same regulatory bodies changed the status to over the counter without any changes occurring in properties of the drugs or active ingredients. The intention of the regulator – HALMED and EMA – was to change the status of issuing drugs to become accessible to patients for self-medication, i.e., self-financing of treatment, and thereby relieving the healthcare budget.

What we would also like to point out is the fact that now the VAT rate in our neighbouring countries, in which from 1 January 2019 Croatia patients often purchase over-the-counter drugs, is greater than in Croatia, hence we believe that patients will decide to purchase drugs in Croatia, where the tax on consumption will contribute to the national budget. Also, this measure will result in better access of self-medication for patients, development of the pharmaceutical industry as a strategic industry and pharmacy in general as well as preserve the pharmacy profession in rural areas.

Kristijan Jakovina