Study exposes high cost of pharmacies printing medical information leaflets

Intergraf welcomes the release of a study by our partner MLPS (Medical Leaflet = Patient Safety), a subgroup of the European Carton Manufacturers Association (ECMA) shedding light on the potential economic costs associated with the proposed use of Print on Demand (PoD) leaflets in
the pharmaceutical legislation revision.
The study, commissioned by MLPS, addresses a critical question left unresolved in the proposed Directive: the enormous total cost implications of implementing PoD leaflets alongside electronic Product Information (ePI).

The study’s conservative quantification provides stakeholders with valuable insights into the economic impacts of PoD leaflets. The estimated total cost of PoD leaflets across Europe-27 ranges from €1.680 billion to €3.495 billion annually, depending on whether leaflets are printed in black or four-color ink. It is
unclear who will bear these costs, whether they will be covered by pharmacies or transferred to the
patient. The calculation of the unit cost per PoD leaflet is composed of several key components required
for pharmacies to provide PoD, including paper, ink, printers’ depreciation, labor costs, and taking into account current digital skills and the number of pharmacies across the EU. The study has calculated the number of PoD leaflets needed based on digital skills and the part of the older population that is more in
need of medication.

The study demonstrates that even with this reduced number of leaflets, the cost impact of PoD is
2 to 3 times larger than the current total cost for medical information leaflets. The report further shows
how the older population will be disproportionately affected by the removal of paper leaflets, as over
50% of dosages are consumed by people aged over 65.

Citing the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index, the report illustrates that this segment of the population has the lowest level of digital skills, especially in Eastern European
countries. Only the Netherlands can boast a skills level of over 50% for basic and above-basic digital skills for the age group of 65 to 74. Most other European countries have levels around 20 or 30% of digital
skills in this age group. This means that 70-80% of the elderly population will be needing a printed version of the leaflets. Therefore, pharmacies would still need to supply a significant number of paper leaflets to patients.

Source – Intergraf Feb 2024