Papers: Pharmacy moguls cutting off their own noses to spite their faces

Editorials in three daily newspapers on Thursday, all addressing the snap 'strike' called by major pharmacy chains in Estonia Wednesday afternoon.
Editorials in three daily newspapers on Thursday, all addressing the snap 'strike' called by major pharmacy chains in Estonia Wednesday afternoon. Source: ERR

Editorials in two Estonian dailies on Thursday were highly critical of the snap decision by retail pharmacy chains to close a large number of outlets on Wednesday afternoon, calling the act blackmail and the cynical manipulation of people's well-being. All links in Estonian.

Daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) said it was beyond belief that a representative body like the Riigikogu seems to be treated as a rubber stamp for big business.

"This kind of forceful demonstration by businessmen is a nasty, arrogant blackmail that only debases the struggle, but hopefully opens the eyes of those people who have not yet figured out what game is being played," the editorial read.

EPL also said the strike campaign deserves condemnation for its disrespectful stance towards its partners and customers. 

"It is best practice for such protests to be announced days, if not weeks in advance. All the more so since a pharmacy is not a cinema - unexpected closure is playing a real game with human health," it added.

Daily Õhtuleht came to the same conclusion, noting that the move to close pharmacies across the country for half a day demonstrated what pharmacy chains, or rather their owners, really think of their customers.

"There is no warmth or customer friendliness there, but pure business – though hopefully not over anyone's dead body," the daily said.

The paper was also skeptical of the claim that the strike was intended to draw attention to what the situation will be like on April 1, when pharmacy reform could lead to a widespread closure of outlets permanently, it is argued.

"Wednesday's unexpected closure … hardly fulfills its purpose, as the owners' anti-politician indignation was drowned out by that of parents who tried to buy medicines at a pharmacy."

A pharmacy reform bill which seemed to favor large chains was defeated in a Riigikogu vote on Tuesday, leaving the status of changes to the law unclear. A previous bill which would have at least nominally placed control of pharmacies in the hands of qualified dispensing pharmacists, and away from the large chains, was recently scrapped by the government following opposition from lobby groups representing the chains. Critics of the original reforms said that they would lead to the decimation of pharmacies, particularly in smaller towns and rural areas – precisely the point being made by Wednesday's strike.

An editorial in daily Postimees was more cautious in its assessments and claimed that public opinion on closing pharmacies was not unanimous.

"I would like to ask who the pharmacy chains were trying to win over with such behavior, but as yesterday showed, people are not unanimous in their criticism of such practices."

"There are some who were persuaded by the explanation posted on the door of a closed pharmacy that once the reforms is done, that outlet will be permanently closed."

Ultimately, however, Postimees acknowledges that this hijacking of the pharmacy service further emphasizes that the professional ethics of a pharmacist are an integral part of the business.

Postimees is part of Postimees Grupp, owned by Margus Linnamäe, who also owns Terve Pere Apteek OÜ, parent company of the Apotheka pharmacy chain, one of four major chains behind Wednesday's strike.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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