468 pharmacies now working in Estonia as reforms take effect

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center).
Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

A total of 468 pharmacies are at work as of Wednesday, April 1, the due-date for the long-awaiting reform of the sector which sees majority ownership of pharmacies transferred to dispensing pharmacists. At the time the reforms were finally passed by the Riigikogu in late February, fewer than 200 outlets were in compliance with the reforms, which transfer majority ownership of pharmacies to the dispensing pharmacists who work in them, and away from wholesalers.

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) noted the sector's significance, adding that the reform increases pharmacists' professional responsibilities further.

"I thank all pharmacists, public authorities and market participants, who have struggled in an extremely difficult situation for the sake of bringing pharmacies into line with the law. Our people can be sure that the pharmacy service in their home area will be maintained," Kiik said, according to a social affairs ministry press release Wednesday morning.

"With the pharmacy reform, we have taken an important step in increasing the role of pharmacists and their decision-making power, and to improve competition in the wholesale market for medicines.

"To make medicines as accessible to our people as possible
at reasonable prices, we need cooperation with pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacies across the supply chain," Kiik added.

Kristin Raudsepp, Director General of the State Agency of Medicines (Raviamet), says that five years constitute a lengthy transition period, during which pharmacy reform has on several occasions hung in the balance (the Medicines Products Act initiated the current reforms, with a five-year lead time-ed.), though the substantive work in most operating pharmacies was done over the past month-and-a-half.

"The former and new owners of pharmacies have done an effective job on their own in bringing pharmacies into line with the law as soon as possible. The State Agency of Medicines has managed a heavy workload, and I can confirm that to the law the corresponding pharmacies will continue to operate in all existing Estonian regions," Raudsepp said.

"We also thank the Competition Authority … for their smooth cooperation, which is important in making decisions," she added.

Whereas there were over 30 critical areas in the country, where continuation of pharmacy coverage was in some doubt, immediately after the reform bill was passed on February 26, pharmacists, the State Agency of Medicines (Raviamet), local authorities and business had all cooperated to bring pharmacies into compliance, Raudsepp added.

A few closures have been reported.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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