The Estonian Chamber of Pharmacists (Eesti Proviisorite Koda) says that the optimal number of pharmacies in the country would number 200-250, Baltic News Service reports.
The association said in a press release that in European states that one pharmacy should optimally on average service 4,000-6,000 customers, making a total of 250 pharmacies in this case optimal given Estonia's population.
The figure could be even lower, at 200, which would make it proportionately the same as the number of pharmacists servicing the population of Finland.
There are currently a little under 500 working pharmacies in Estonia.
The total revenue of pharmacies amounted to €391 million in 2018, from which at least €89 million went on covering expenditures, the chamber, which represents pharmacists themselves rather than the large chains, said, according to BNS.
The association says this means at least 23 percent of pharmacies' revenue went on keeping the drugstores running, compared with 14 percent in Finland.
"That means that the supply of medication in Finland is organized at a much lower price than in Estonia," the chamber said, adding that decreasing the number of pharmacies by 50 percent would save at least €44.5 million per year, which could be passed on to medicine costs reductions to consumers of around 11 percent, BNS reports.
Government pharmacy reform defeated at Riigikogu on Tuesday
Pharmacy reform has been a hotly debated topic in recent months, with the coalition government recently scrapping a bill which would have put more control of the sector into the hands of individual pharmacists by requiring them to own at least a 51-percent stake in a working outlet.
However, on Tuesday the government-sponsored replacement bill, which more or less would have done the reverse of the above, was defeated 50 votes to 46 at the Riigikogu in a motion sponsored by opposition MP Riina Sikkut (SDE) and the Riigikogu's social affairs committee.
At a press conference on Monday, Estonian Pharmacies Association (EAÜ) chairman Timo Danilov said reducing the number of pharmacies was risky. Critics of the government's original reforms said it would reduce numbers of pharmacies, but that this was an undesirable outcome, rather than a desirable one as the chamber of pharmacists argued.
The EAÜ represents the larger pharmacy chains.
Editor: Andrew Whyte