Pharmacists who are now acting as owners of pharmacies are still getting used to the new situation three months after the entry into force of the reform.
It is now three months since Estonia's pharmacy reform. ERR looked into developments on the market.
The completion of the Reform on April 1 left Estonia with 469 pharmacies. While 25 pharmacies were initially closed, five were reopened later. Three new pharmacies have cropped up in places that did not previously have one. Three have been closed due to renovation work. This puts the total number of active pharmacies at 474.
Deputy Director of the State Agency of Medicines Katrin Kiisk said that clients have not felt the changes nor should they.
"If one of the goals of the reform was for wholesalers not to own or run pharmacies, conditions have been created for the owners today to be freer in their decisions. However, from the client's perspective, the pharmacists who are giving them advice are still the same people. From here, efforts should be aimed at developing pharmacies and the pharmacist's role in the patient's treatment," Kiisk said.
Pharmacists who had newly become owners immediately found themselves in the middle of the coronavirus emergency situation. There was great pressure on pharmacies they are now slowly recovering from. While the vacation season is looming, everyday work at pharmacies has continued," said Karin Alamaa-Aas, head of the Estonian Chamber of Pharmacists.
"Pharmacists are slowly getting used to the role of owner. Those who are not owners are working much as they did before. The pharmacy market will have organized itself in about 18 months or so," Alamaa-Aas believes.
One thing regarding which there were concerns was availability of medicines, supply disruptions. Karin Alamaa-Aas said that while there have been some difficulties, these were mostly caused by the emergency situation.
"It had nothing to do with Estonian suppliers, the problems lied elsewhere. But they have been solved or replaced and I very much hope people have not been forced to go without medicine."
Katrin Kiisk from the medicines agency added that such fears were, to some extent, stoked by previous owners of pharmacies.
"Drug availability is not tied directly to the pharmacy reform but rather manufacturers' ability to keep up with demand," Kiisk said.
On June 6, the Riigikogu conducted the first reading of the Medicinal Products Act that includes a lot of changes ranging from the price of medicines to manufacturing and waste conditioning. Karin Alamaa-Aas said pharmacists made some proposals based on circumstances following the reform.
"So that pharmacist owners could work in all of their pharmacies, with one out of four of their pharmacies, for example, allowed to prepare medicines," she said.
Because pharmacists can now be the ones to make decisions and develop healthcare services at their pharmacies, there seems to be greater interest in the profession.
Editor: Marcus Turovski