Distribution of pharmaceuticals

From the factory gate to the patient’s hand, the medicine passes through many steps. All medicines go through the pharmaceutical wholesaler.

There are only a few wholesalers in Finland specialised in medicine distribution, with operations covering the whole country. The largest are Oriola and Tamro.

The Finnish wholesale distribution of medicines is based on the one-channel principle whereby the pharmacy or hospital can have the pharmaceutical company’s products from one wholesaler only. From the wholesaler, the medicines travel through various routes to the medicine user.

The entire Finnish distribution chain is closely controlled and strictly in professional hands. This both ensures the availability of  medicines and prevents counterfeit medicines from entering the official distribution system. Such counterfeits constitute a significant health risk for medicine users. The authenticity of medicines is further ensured by the European medicines verification system  introduced in early 2019.

In Finland, the pharmaceutical distribution operates as follows:

  • Pharmacies are responsible for the retail distribution of prescription-only and self-care medicines.

  • Hospital pharmacies or medicine dispensaries organise the public healthcare pharmaceutical services in hospitals and healthcare centres. A medicine dispensary can also be established in a private hospital. There a total of 25 hospital pharmacies, while in the municipal, state and private sectors there are about 110 medicine dispensaries in total. For patients in service housing facilities, the medicines are mostly bought from an outpatient pharmacy.

  • The military pharmacy is responsible for the pharmaceutical service of the defence forces, frontier guard and peacekeeping forces. 

  • Vaccines included in the national vaccination programme are available free of charge from the healthcare system. Other pharmacies can be bought from the pharmacy 

  • Veterinary medicines go from the wholesalers either to the pharmacies or directly to the veterinary surgeons.