Pharmacists protest against planned law amendments, demand ownership restrictions
Pharmacists gathered in front of the Toompea Castle today to demand that the state retains ownership restrictions for pharmacies. The Estonian Chamber of Pharmacists (EAL) said that the majority of the pharmacies are owned by foreign businesses, but they should be an inherent part of the health care system instead.
Karin Alamaa-Aas, the head of EAL, told ERR radio news that pharmacists should be free to act in the best interest of the patients, but today many are forced to follow sales plans forced upon by out-of-touch head offices of large pharmaceutical companies, whose sole aim is to make profit.
Alamaa-Aas said that pharmacists are often told which products they have to recommend and sell. "When you are told that no one should be allowed to leave the pharmacy without buying something - it's absolutely ridiculous! We're not a sales agency, we're a health care establishment," she said, adding that pharmacists should be free to tell the customers that sometimes there is no need for a medication.
"The corporate pharmacies are exceedingly oriented toward selling cosmetics and food supplements, not medications. This comes with the triumph of marketing and sales philosophy in the pharmaceuticals sector. This is not in accord with health care principles and needs to be changed. As every medication is also a poison, the "sale at all costs" approach is not in the best interest of the patient," reads the open letter by EAL.
"No one asks why a GP surgeries must belong to the GPs. The same restrictions should apply to pharmacies," Alamaa-Aas said. Hence the pharmacists now demand that the state keeps in place the ownership restrictions, which it plans to revoke.
EAL believes that the quality of the service will rise if the pharmacies are owned by independent certified specialists and this is also the only way to sustain the existing network of local drugstores.
EAL is worried that the loss of ownership restrictions will lead to tidal-wave of new pharmacies in a rat-race between large corporations. A mass of new drugstores in larger towns, however, will lead to the closing of smaller private ones.
“As the town-pharmacies will need workers, the employees need to be bought over from someone else. There is a distinct change that the specialists will move from the rural areas to towns and cities. This will lead to the closing of many local drugstores,” said Ülle Rebane from the EAL.