The direct savings are the most immediate benefits of parallel trade, and, therefore, also the easiest to calculate. These are derived from the difference between the manufacturer’s price for a certain medicine and the less expensive parallel imported alternative. In sum, direct savings represent the benefits from offering a pharmaceutical product with the same standards of safety and quality at a lower price.
The distribution of the savings depends on how the health system is configured in each country. In a number of cases, public health insurers retain the price difference between the manufacturer’s price and the parallel import. This saving is ultimately passed to the patients, who must have pay lower contributions, direct fees or taxes to sustain the health system. In other countries, like Sweden, the price difference are seized by pharmacies, and removing this source of profit would endanger their financial performance (Sveriges Apoteksförening, 2017).
There have been a number of studies on the savings from parallel trade that have evidenced the positive effects of parallel imports in reducing the national health budgets or increasing the profitability of European pharmacies. The most recent ones obtain savings of €202m, €60m, €31m, and €67m per year for Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Poland respectively. These figures are relative to the size of their pharmaceutical markets, and they also depend on other elements: incentives to provide parallel imported medicines, hurdles to the entry of imports, different reimbursement, degree of competition of the parallel importers in the market, etc.