Patients can consult with pharmacies via video link, court rules

An administrative court rejected the State Agency of Medicine's ban on video consultations.
An administrative court rejected the State Agency of Medicine's ban on video consultations. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

Tartu Administrative Court has satisfied an appeal by Terve Pere Apteek OÜ, which operates pharmacies under the Apotheka brand, and canceled an order of the State Agency of Medicines banning the consulting of pharmacy customers via video link.

Terve Pere Apteek took the matter to court after the Agency of Medicines issued its order in July to ensure the physical presence of a pharmacist or assistant pharmacist at the Luunja and Kavastu village branches of Tartu's Tamme Pharmacy.

The pharmacy chain had in June introduced an arrangement at these pharmacies by which not a trained pharmacist but a clerk was physically present at the pharmacy to dispense medicines to customers and accept payments, while a pharmacist or assistant pharmacist working at the main pharmacy in Tartu would be available to consult patients via video conferencing.

Under this arrangement, the handover of medicine likewise happens under the supervision, via video link, of a person trained to provide pharmacy services.

Citing the Medicinal Products Act, the Agency of Medicines in July obliged the company to ensure the physical presence of a pharmacist certified by the Agency of Medicines at the pharmacies during the their hours of operation.

The court, however, found that the arrangement developed by the business was consistent with the purpose of said provision of the Medicinal Products Act. The court agreed with Terve Pere Apteek that the system developed by the pharmacy operator does not allow for purchase a medicine without the participation of a pharmacist or an assistant pharmacist in the selling process.

Hence, both when it comes to medicinal products not subject to medical prescription and medicinal products subject to medical prescription, the pharmacy service is effectively is provided by an employee meeting the requirements of the Medicinal Products Act, even though this happens via video conferencing. The court also agreed with the plaintiff that making medicines physically accessible to customers and accepting payments is not a part of the pharmacy service, which should be provided exclusively by a person with specialist training.

Terve Pere Apteek said that consulting customers via video conferencing allows them to keep the pharmacy branches open on more days of the week, which has a significant positive effect on the accessibility of pharmacy services and medicines.

The court also ordered for Terve Pere Apteek to be compensated for the costs of the proceedings in the amount of €5,215.

The State Agency of Medicines has until Jan. 29 to appeal the administrative court's decision.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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