EKRE's pharmacy reform bill rejected by Riigikogu ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Pharmacy. Photo is illustrative.
Pharmacy. Photo is illustrative. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

A bill put forward by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) to reverse pharmacy reforms did not gain enough votes to pass on Tuesday.

In total, 46 voted to reject the bill, 42 in favor of the bill, and nine members abstained. Four members were absent from the vote.

Of the 46 deputies who refected the proposal 30 were from the Reform Party, 10 from the Social Democratic Party (SDE), five from the Center Party, and independent Raimond Kaljulaid (Kaljulaid, who was elected as a Center Party member at the March general election, is now a member of SDE but under electoral law cannot sit with its Riigikogu grouping).

Of the 42 who voted in support of the proposal: 17 were from EKRE, 13 from the Center Party and 12 from Isamaa.

Five Center Party members and four Reform Party members abstained. The voting results can be seen here (link in Estonian).

MPs debated drafts put forward by both EKRE and the SDE for more than 2.5 hours before the vote was held. The bill was defended by Helle-Moonika Helme (EKRE) and Tõnis Mölder (Center), the Chairman of the Social Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu.

Dozens of questions were put to Helme and Mölder by the opposition and by MPs from the Center Party. The latter were also critical of the EKRE's proposal.

EKRE's bill would have amended the Medicinal Products Act to make it less restrictive to pharmacists in terms of ownership and structure, as well as permitting hospitals to run their own retail pharmacies and not be tied to domestic Estonian wholesalers.

The two SDE bills are aimed at allowing hospital pharmacies to import medicines themselves in one case, and to allow pharmacy ownership under the government reforms due to take into effect on April 1 to be met by several pharmacists jointly owning a pharmacy, in the other case.

All three bills make amendments to the "official" government reform, the latter following the requirements of the Medicinal Products Act, passed five years ago, which would transfer ownership of pharmacies nominally from larger wholesale chains to dispensing pharmacists.

Critics of the reforms say that they would lead to wide-scale closures, particularly hitting smaller population centers, since fewer than 200 of Estonia's nearly 600 outlets currently meet the requirements.

EKRE's bill would have cancelled the planned reforms. The SDE bills have not yet been voted on.

If none of the bills are passed, the law in will only allow pharmacists to own and operate pharmacies from April 1.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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