Magnum Medical, Estonia's largest pharmaceuticals wholesaler, says that it has an automated system which channels drugs to dispensing pharmacists, with the latter only having to confirm the order. This is one of the reasons chain pharmacy's owned by the same concerns as the wholesalers are secure in their supply of medicines, the company claims.
Spokesperson and board member at Magnum Medial, Tiina Lätti , also told ERR that two different pharmaceuticals wholesalers, owned by businessmen brothers Margus and Aivar Linnmäe, may have different names and are indeed different companies, but the products still go through the same warehouse operated by Magnum.
Lätti said that wholesalers automatically provide dispensing pharmacists with medicines, rather than the pharmacists having to order. The latter simply confirms the order on site.
"I don't want to delve deeper into our IT capabilities, because this is definitely confidential business information," Lätti told ERR.
"We have certain systems in place that help pharmacies place orders, and then pharmacists review orders since of course they see their customers on a daily basis."
This automated system does not mean that individual orders cannot be placed where needed, by the pharmacist, Lätti said.
Magnum: Chains affiliated to wholesalers a good thing
Lätti also said that wholesalers having their own chains affiliated to them, including those of Magnum (Margus LInnamäe), Tamro (whose affiliated pharmacy chain is Benu) and Apteekide Koostöö Hulgimüük OÜ (Aivar Linnamäe), was a good thing.
"This will allow us to maintain a larger supply of medicines in retail pharmacies, and certainly our own pharmacies are more conscientious, and a little more proactive in taking in supplies", she said, adding that the reliability, competence and advice of the pharmacies of the Magnum Group are just as good as that of all other pharmacies.
Two companies sharing same warehouse unrelated, Magnum claims
Despite Magnum and Apteekide Koostöö Hulgimüük being different businesses owned by two brothers, their stock is held at the Magnum warehouse in Laagri, southwest of Tallinn. This has prompted many to claim the two companies, which together have a 50 percent market share, are one and the same, a claim which Lätti rejects.
The reason for the joint-warehousing at the Magnum site is because Aivar Linnamäe's wholesaling concern lacks warehousing and storage rights, Lätti claimed.
"There are other companies in the same boat in Estonia who need a wholesaler which has storage rights – such as Magnum – via which they will get their storage and distribution services," she told ERR's Mirjam Mäekivi, who visited the warehouse on-site on Thursday.
However, Apteekide Koostöö Hulgimüük OÜ (Aivar Linnamäe) email addresses end in the same domain extension, namely apotheka.ee (Margus LInnamäe), which is the retail chain affiliated to Magnum.
ERR reached out to Apteekide Koostöö Hulgimüük OÜ some days ago, but has not received a response at the time of writing.
Ongoing pharmacy reform efforts by the government aim to place greater control into the hands of dispensing pharmacists and away from the large chains. However, the original bill to do this was scrapped by the government itself in November, and replaced by one which did almost the opposite, in favor of the large chains, only for this bill to be defeated in a Riigikogu vote in December.
A separate, but related, issue concerns the making over-the-counter drugs at retailers other than pharmacies, for instance kiosks and supermarkets, available. At present they are not.
Margus Linnamäe is also owner of Postimees Grupp, one of the two major media companies in Estonia, with daily national and regional Postimees papers, Kanal 2 TV channel, Raadio Kuku and other concerns under its umbrella.
Editor: Andrew Whyte