Pharmacy controversy biggest challenge of last Parliament session
With small-town pharmacies up in arms over what they see as encroachment by multinational chains, regulation of the sale of medicines is shaping up to be the biggest task for the last session of the 12th Estonian Parliament, which began on Monday.
Many pharmacists shuttered their shops from 10:00 to 14:00 on Friday as a "warning strike" to protest a late December move by the Supreme Court to vacate temporary restrictions on founding new pharmacies. Parliament had passed the restrictions in a bid to buy time.
Speaker of the Parliament Eiki Nestor told uudised.err.ee: "We now have a Supreme Court decision that compels the Parliament to adopt legislation in January. The debates are heated. On one hand, the criticism from dispensers is not so much leveled at the Parliament but mainly at the Supreme Court decision. Like it or not, we in Parliament must abide by it. We have to find some solution here."
The pharmacists who are critical of the Supreme Court decision say there should be protections in place similar to ones enjoyed by general medical practitioners to prevent foreign-owned pharmacies from "evicting" them.
Ülle Rebane, chairwoman of the Pharmacists Association, says she backs restrictions on ownership, like ones in other European countries - something that only the Center Party has officially supported but which, Rebane says, does have backing from other parties as well.