Drug wholesaler Magnum, which has operated the Apotheka chain of pharmacies, has promised to file a claim against the state in connection with the pharmacy reform that entered into force on Wednesday. While other pharmacy chains are still weighing whether or not to follow suit, Euroapteek alone has ruled out filing a claim of its own. All pharmacy chains are continuing to operate pharmacies, however, formally as pharmacist-owned pharmacies via franchise agreements, meaning that the status quo essentially remains.
Businessman Margus Linnamäe, the owner of Apotheka parent company Magnum, said several months ago already that he intended to file a monetary claim against the state if the pharmacy reform was implemented and Magnum and Apotheka could no longer participate in the pharmacy market. Magnum has since repeated its promise.
It has not yet been more specific about its intentions, however, nor has it named an exact amount of damages.
"The claim is being prepared, and we currently cannot comment on the contents thereof in more detail," said Magnum communications director Karina Loi.
The Apotheka chain transferred all of its pharmacies to its existing pharmacists; there was no need to lay anyone off in the process. The pharmacies in question will continue operating as pharmacist-owned franchises, which will be supplied by the wholesaler Apotheka.
Kaidi Kelt, retail director of the Benu chain, admitted that she has not yet been able to consider whether or not to file a claim against the state.
"Good question... Right now we're still dealing with implementing the reform, so I haven't thought about it," Kelt said. "I can't say yes or no. The possibility still exists. We'll complete the reform and then an internal discussion will follow."
The Benu chain likewise transferred its activity licenses to pharmacists that had worked for its company. A total of 67 pharmacies that belonged to Benu will continue operating as pharmacist-owned pharmacies; four of its pharmacies were closed (one each in Kohtla-Järve and Tapa, and two in Tallinn). Two locations that had operated as branch pharmacies, one in Tallinn and one at Rakvere Polyclinic, will begin operating as pharmacist-owned pharmacies in about a month and a half.
Kelt confirmed that they did not have to lay anyone off. Employees of the four pharmacies to close were transferred to other locations, and some people also retired.
Pharma Holding OÜ, operator of the Südameapteek chain, likewise has not yet decided whether or not it would file a claim.
"The filing of a claim is under consideration, on the basis of legally relevant and demonstrable arguments," director Risto Laur said.
Südameapteek closed five pharmacies as a result of the reform, but did not have to lay off any of its employees.
Euroapteek alone has already decided that it would not be filing a claim against the state.
"Euroapteek does not plan on filing a single claim," director Oksana Kostogriz said. "Our priority is the continued support of new pharmacist owners and pharmacists, and keeping pharmacies open during the COVID-19 emergency situation and under newly-arrived economic crisis conditions. We were the first pharmacy chain to make all of our pharmacies safe places of purchase for both our clients and our pharmacists in the emergency situation, restricting the movement of clients in the pharmacy, installing plexiglass barriers at checkouts and organizing the necessary personal protective equipment for all of our pharmacies. Thanks to the support of the international group, we have been able to supply Euroapteek pharmacies with critical disinfectants and medicinal products during the ongoing crisis, and we will be able to ensure continued support going forward as well."
Euroapteek likewise did not have to lay off any of its employees. The company did not close any of its pharmacies due to the reform; all 73 of its pharmacies will continue operating as pharmacist-owned pharmacies under franchise agreements with Euroapteek, which according to Kostogriz's explanations means that their pricing and selection policies would continue to be dictated by the parent company.
"All Euroapteek pharmacies are open and comply with newly imposed requirements," the director said, noting that the Kullerkupu Euroapteek pharmacy in Tallinn would open Thursday after renovation work at the location was completed. "Pharmacies operating under the Euroapteek brand are located across Estonia, including in smaller areas where there are no other pharmacies."
Following the nationwide pharmacy reform which entered into effect on April 1, a total of 468 pharmacies will continue operating across the country. 25 pharmacies have announced their closures, some of which will nonetheless reopen as pharmacist-owned pharmacies within the next two months. The State Agency of Medicines confirmed that no areas where a pharmacy previously operated has now gone without a single pharmacy.
Editor: Aili Vahtla