Pharmacy services should clearly be aimed at healthcare and not business, and, considering sums on the pharmaceuticals market, state control, supervision and counseling should be more thorough, Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik said in an interview to ERR's Otse uudistemajast webcast.
Legislation currently in effect should see all pharmaceutical wholesalers surrender their stakes in pharmacies, with dispensing chemists of pharmacists left holding majority stakes from April 1.
Owner of the BENU chain of drugstores, pharmaceuticals wholesaler Tamro has been trying to tell politicians the reform is not a good idea and should be written off for years. Complaints were largely ignored until Riigikogu Social Affairs Committee chair Tõnis Mölder (Centre) and member Priit Sibul (Isamaa) started talking about how the dispensing chemist owners' requirement is impossible to enforce in time and should be abolished a few weeks ago.
It turned out this week that the Centre Party took in the most donations in Q3, with €100,000 coming from Ivar Vendelin, business partner to pharmaceuticals wholesaler Magnum owner Margus Linnamäe.
Kiik said he does not believe the donation has anything to do with the social affairs committee's change of heart.
Kiik said that the pharmacy reform has been discussed by three compositions of the Riigikogu by now and that he finds the reform sensible as it increases the relative importance of chemists.
"It is a sensible requirement; we see it in Finland, Central Europe. It ensures we avoid conflicts of interest and that chemists who spend five years learning their trade can better observe people's health concerns," he explained. The reform has shown that over 200 pharmacies are already owned by chemists, with 167 in full compliance and 40 where chemists do not yet hold 51 percent."
Kiik said it is likely the coalition does not agree on the reform and that no decisions have been made. The government is set to discuss the reform and different sides' views next Tuesday. The minister did not wish to speculate as to the outcome.
While it is possible to buy over-the-counter drugs in supermarkets in many countries, Kiik is not in favor of introducing such a possibility in Estonia. He said that medicinal products are not basic commodities and people need advice when making choices and determining the effects of different medicines.
"Rather, we see pharmacies as healthcare institutions, not shops. The sale of pharmaceuticals should be regulated and monitored to avoid a situation where people take drugs they don't really need," the minister said.
"Of course, the pharmacy reform is no magic wand with the potential of fixing the entire sector overnight. Efforts need to be retained because pharmacy services clearly need to be healthcare services. And considering pharmacy, pharmaceutical market sums — €300 million a year — state control, monitoring and counseling should be more thorough," he said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski