One third of Estonian pharmacies already meet the requirements of reforms due to be finalized next April, according to social affairs minster Tanel Kiik (Centre).
The reforms are aimed at ironing out potential conflicts of interest, by separating retail and wholesale pharmaceuticals sales. They should also encourage more pharmacists into the sector.
"Pharmacy reform is inevitable in order to bring pharmacists back into the healthcare system," Kiik said Monday.
"Only when independent of the business interests of pharmaceutical wholesalers is it possible for a pharmacist to base themselves in their professional work on the needs of the patient, as well as engage in in-depth cooperation with family doctors, for instance. The state naturally has to ensure the availability of medicines for people all over Estonia," Kiik continued in a press release, BNS reports.
Reforms deadline Apr. 1
From June 2014, wholesalers have been barred from setting up new retail branches of pharmacies, and from Apr. 1 2020, majority shares in all pharmacies must belong to independent pharmacists, according to BNS.
"It's seven months until the end of the pharmacy reform. More than one-third of pharmacies today correspond to the requirement of pharmacist ownership. Now it's time for the rest of pharmacies to bring themselves into conformity with the requirements as well," said the director general of the Agency of Medicines (Ravimiamet), Kristin Raudsepp.
"We encourage pharmacists who already hold a stake in a pharmacy to bring their ownership relations into conformity with the requirements of the law. We also recommend the wholesalers of medicines who own pharmacies to be more active, in order for pharmacy services to continue in a seamless fashion after the final deadline of the reforms as well. The Agency of Medicines is prepared to comprehensively counsel and support pharmacy owners in the change of ownership," Raudsepp added.
As at Aug. 1 this year, there were close to 500 pharmacies across Estonia, with about 200 partly or wholly owned by independent pharmacists, BNS reports.
Estonian pharmacies experienced a turnover of €391 million in 2018, 73 percent of which came from medicines. Of those medicines sold, 78.6 percent were prescription medicines, to which the Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) contributed €146.5 million.
Head of the Estonian Chamber of Dispensing Chemists Karin Alamaa-Aas added that pharmacists and doctors will be able to complement each other better under the new rule
"In this way also the emphasis at the pharmacy will shift back to solving a person's health concern," Alamaa-Aas said.
"There is interest in the running of pharmacies both among members of the Estonian Chamber of Dispensing Chemists and the Estonian Pharmacies Association (Eesti Apteekide Ühendus), but also among pharmacists who are not members of either association. The Estonian Chamber of Dispensing Chemists offers pharmacists interested in running a pharmacy both legal and business advice, and is prepared if necessary to serve as a neutral body which will mediate selling offers to pharmacists," she added.
Le Vallikivi, head of the Family Physicians Association of Estonia (Eesti Perearstide Selts), said that family doctors are in full support of an increase in the independence and responsibility of pharmacists in healthcare.
"Just as a medic must be independent in their decisions, so too must pharmacists have the possibility to base their actions on the real needs of the patient and thus give professional aid," Vallikivi said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte