A hike in drug prices in European Union countries has a side effect for Bulgarian pharmacies. Frustrated with high fees, Bulgarians turn to neighboring Turkey to shop for medicine. Edirne, a Turkish city bordering Bulgaria and Greece, sees a rising number of Bulgarian patients seeking cheap prescription drugs. In daily excursions to Edirne, already a popular route for Bulgarian grocery shoppers, they buy drugs at almost half the price of equivalent drugs in their own country.
Şükrü Ciravoğlu, who runs a pharmacy in the city, says drug-pricing policies in Bulgaria changed after the Balkan country became a EU member in 2007, causing steep hikes.
"Drugs are cheaper in Turkey thanks to Social Security payments [state funds for prescription drugs]. Current prices are almost one third lower than Bulgaria. It may be a trivial difference for some, but for cancer patients or patients suffering from other diseases with expensive treatment, it is significant," Ciravoğlu says. The pharmacist adds that another factor drawing Bulgarians to Edirne was availability of drugs unavailable in Bulgaria. He says dozens of people come to the city every week for pharmacy shopping.