The government's planned pharmacy reform may still go ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic, social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) says.
Appearing on ETV politics discussion show "Esimene stuudio" Thursday night, Kiik said that: "We have analyzed this issue. It is now apparent that most Estonian pharmacies are already compliant [with the reforms] or have submitted an application. Our best estimate is that the pharmacy reform can be successfully completed. Of course, if there will be some exceptions, some specific areas where we can see concerns which also need to be considered," Kiik said.
Naturally, in areas where we foresee problems and concerns - be it with a pharmacist or a pharmacist being sick, or other such issues, there has to be flexibility," he added.
One of the three major chains in Estonia, BENU, owned by the Tamro wholesaler, recently proposed the government and the State Agency of Medicines (Raviamet) postpone the reforms – due to come into effect on April 1 and which will require dispensing pharmacists to be majority owners of the pharmacies they work in – till after the crisis has passed.
Kiik: Medicine supplies guaranteed
While the medicines agency has received several reports of medicines being imported to Estonia getting held up as states impose border controls as a coronavirus measure, Kiik said supplies in Estonia were currently sufficient and there was no cause for alarm, though there may sometimes be temporary interruptions in access to medicines.
"This is day-to-day work, it's not news in any way. We've been in contact with wholesalers, importers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and, as I said, on-site manufacturers. to make sure of simpler [medicinal] ingredients here. We don't have to worry about Estonia right now; the availability of medicines is guaranteed," he said.
At the same time, Kiik reminded the public that it is not wise to bulk-buy medicines as people have been doing in stores for some food or for toilet paper.
"In order to ensure that medicines are distributed to all people in Estonia, it makes sense that everyone buys and consumes them exactly as needed and not to buy up stock, for example, for a year or two, as that might mean somebody else in need going without," he said.
Kiik noted that Estonia uses different supply chains and cooperation partners in the sector, and that Estonia does not depend on very distant supply chains for medicines; warehouses supplying Estonia are mostly in Latvia and Lithuania, he said.
"The availability of medicines is guaranteed," he reiterated. "
We are not so dependent on far-flung supply chains here. Cooperation with Latvia and Lithuania is very good. /.../ There are no medicines being withheld in the Baltics," he said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte