Pharmacy chain Euroapteek says that in going ahead with planned pharmacy reform on April 1, the government is taking a risk, given the coronavirus pandemic.
The company has written to the Riigikogu, Ministry of Social Affairs and the State Agency of Medicines (Raviamet), to the effect that the pharmacy chain is required to hand over control of its drugstores to dispensing pharmacists from April 1, under the terms of the reforms; however, the State Agency of Medicines is not issuing any new activity licenses until the same date, Euroapteek – the Estonian arm of the Lithuanian-owned Euroapotheca international group – says.
"This means that the form of ownership can only be changed in the course of one night, early on April 1. The likelihood is very high that some of the pharmacies must close for a few days due to the need to move all sorts of data and the subsequent IT-related and other challenges," Oksana Kostogriz, chair of the management board of Euroapteek, said, according to BNS.
Euroapteek added that pharmacists are not prepared to take on such a responsibility in a time of crisis, as they lack the experience as well as support from other businesses and the state, and their funds are limited. Pharmacists will also find it difficult to quickly get a replacement should they themselves fall ill, Euroapteek said.
Euroapteek has kept nearly all its pharmacies open in the current crisis so far, BNS reports. Medicines are now sold from behind the counter to increase health safety, and the chain has installed a protective glass between the customer and the pharmacist.
Kostogriz notes that Euroapteek had the ability to take such rapid measures due to its being a large chain consisting of a large number of pharmacies both in Estonia and abroad.
The stock of plexiglass, disinfectants, masks and other protective gear is limited, however, the company says, requiring plenty of coordination to maintain the supply chain, Kostogriz added.
Another chain, BENU, has already expressed an opinion that the reforms should be put on hold until the COVID-19 pandemic passes.
The reforms due to come into effect on April 1 require dispensing pharmacists to own a minimum 51 percent stake in the pharmacies they work in. Euroapteek has been initiating new companies which should lead to the company complying with the reforms via a franchisee system, according to media reports.
Editor: Andrew Whyte