Ministry of social affairs spokesperson Maris Jesse spoke in support of a proposal from the Estonian Pharmacies Association (EAÜ) aimed at ending the impasse on pharmacy reform, where practicing pharmacists could coexist with larger chains.
The proposed reforms, if they come into effect in April, would mean control of pharmacies be placed in the hands of pharmacists themselves, and away from larger chains. Critics say it would prevent newcomers entering the market and would lead to large numbers of pharmacies closing, particularly in rural areas.
Some critics have pointed to the €100,000 which Ivar Vendelin, business partner to Terve Pere Apteek OÜ owner Margus Linnamäe, donated to the Centre Party in Q3 2019 as a factor in the seemingly changed approach. The issue has been satirized by at least one newspaper cartoonist.
The proposal appears to have come via hearsay in the media rather than a direct approach.
Appearing on ETV current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera on Monday evening, Jesse, who is undersecretary at the ministry, said that she was interested in learning more about the proposals.
"What would happen [should the proposed reforms go through] depends first and foremost on when and where the wholesale pharmacy itself decides to retreat from a particular region, from a certain town. As life has shown, rural pharmacies are more likely to be at risk. Today, more than half of pharmacies are in larger towns," she said.
Asked whether the pharmacy market would remain closed to newcomers if the reforms were to come into effect, Jesse said that the recent proposal would certainly secure the future of chain pharmacies.
"This proposal /.../ will certainly strengthen the situation of existing pharmacies. Also the situation of wholesale distribution related to pharmacies," she said.
Jesse stressed that the ministry is only aware of the proposals as they were disclosed in the press release and in the media on Monday.
As a result, the ministry planned to get together the representatives of pharmacy chains, independent pharmacists and others on Tuesday to examine it in more detail.
Editor: Andrew Whyte