Pharmacists: Reversing reform would drive rural pharmacies out of market

Benu pharmacy being set up at PERH.
Benu pharmacy being set up at PERH. Source: Benu

Reversing the pharmacy reform due to pressure exerted by pharmaceutical wholesalers would result in the further concentration of Estonia's pharmacy market, a reduction in competition and some 200 pharmacist-owned drugstores in rural areas being driven out of the market, the Estonian Chamber of Pharmacists (EAÜ) and the Estonian Pharmacists' Association (EAL) said.

The two trade unions have contacted the government coalition in connection with a press release published by the Social Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu on Tuesday according to which the coalition has essentially started weighing adjusting the pharmacy reform to suit the needs of pharmaceutical wholesalers that had previously threatened the state and legislator at a meeting of the Social Affairs Committee, the unions said.

The current state of the pharmacy reform was introduced to interest groups by the Riigikogu committee on Sept. 24.

"The unwillingness of wholesaler-owned pharmacies to abide by the laws of the Republic of Estonia and sell their pharmacies in accordance with the law as well as their various claims against the state ended up being the central issue of the discussion," EAÜ chairwoman Karin Alamaa-Aas said in a press release.

"The meeting concluded with a promise by the Social Affairs Committee to keep [the parties involved] informed of developments regarding the pharmacy reform, which made it all the more surprising to read in a press release later that due to pressure exerted by pharmaceutical wholesalers, [they] are planning to begin talks on reversing the pharmacy reform, which has lasted for the past five years" Alamaa-Aas said.

The union chairwoman noted that the state cannot solve wholesalers' unwillingness to follow legislation passed by the Riigikogu by breaking a promise it has made to 200 pharmacist-owned pharmacies.

"Conflicting messages about the compulsory nature of legislation have put pharmacists in a complicated situation in which it is no longer clear what the state is planning or if it intends to keep its promises," a joint statement issued to coalition party chairmen Jüri Ratas (Centre), Mart Helme (EKRE) and Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa) said. "Pharmacists want their sense of security and harmony in the workplace to be returned to them. If a decision has been made in favor of ownership restrictions, this reform must be moved forward, as pharmacists have already taken it into account when making their plans and investments."

Pharmacist-owned pharmacies prepared for switch

According to State Agency of Medicines data, as of Aug. 1, 64 percent of pharmacies in rural areas were pharmacist-owned.

"Reversing the pharmacy reform would mean that the state has gone back on its word, and that 200 pharmacist-owned pharmacies will be driven out of the market to serve the interests of large pharmacy chains," Alamaa-Aas said.

The two unions highlighted in their statement that pharmacist-owned pharmacies are prepared to switch to the new system on April 1, even if large pharmacy chains opt not to sell their facilities.

"In that case, new pharmacies will be established in these regions by pharmacists," Alamaa-Aas added.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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