Interior and foreign ministers slam pharmacy 'strike'

Interior Minister Mart Helme (EKRE).
Interior Minister Mart Helme (EKRE). Source: ERR

Both interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) and foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) condemned the snap closure of chain pharmacies nationwide, called by the chains themselves, on Wednesday afternoon. While the closures had been reported as a strike, a lock-out might be a more accurate term.

"It came totally out of the blue that this kind of outright closure of pharmacies [could happen]," Helme said on Thursday.

"No matter how contrary we are in the Riigikogu, between politicians or with the public, about pharmacy reform, such actions cannot be considered productive; on the contrary they are counterproductive," Helme said.

"In my opinion, the public resonance with all that happened yesterday with the pharmacies also shows that society does not understand this type of pressure, this blackmail, this threatening attitude. I can't see how we can in any way consider this action to be conducive to dialogue," Helme added.

Urmas Reinsalu said that he did not consider sudden closure a solution. 

"I condemn such an extreme protest. In this way, pressure is not okay," Reinsalu said.

Reinsalu said a plan for supply shortages at pharmacies, because if a person does not have access to the medicines they need, they may suffer unpleasant and even fatal consequences.

Ratas: No business of any size can blackmail Riigikogu and government

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said Wednesday night that no business can use intimidation tactics to get laws that are unfavorable to them revoked.

"Such pressure and intimidation must not be used by anyone in society, no matter how great the company or wholesaler is today, to begin closing down pharmacies.

But the take home to me is that no one in the Riigikogu nor anyone in the government is going to reverse or alter any of these reforms as the result of intimidation and threats," Ratas added.

Four chains, Apotheka, Benu, Euroapteek and Südameapteek, all members of industry lobby group the Estonian Pharmacies Association (EAÜ), closed their pharmacies for the rest of the day at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, claiming the act would raise awareness of what they believe the country's pharmacy network would look like after the implementation of the planned pharmacy reform.

A recent bill which replaced the original reforms, and which was more amenable to the wholesalers, was defeated in a Riiigikogu vote on Tuesday. The initial reforms themselves were scrapped by the government, leaving the status of any reform up in the air, but it is the specter of the original version – which would ostensibly place more control of the sector in the hands of individual dispensing pharmacists and which critics say would lead to widespread closures especially in smaller towns – which the large chains have been protesting.

The State Agency of Medicines (Raviamet) carried a list of functioning pharmacies Wednesday afternoon, many of which worked later into the evening than usual.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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