TALLINN – The Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs said that wholesaler pharmacy owners are spreading baseless fear and misleading people regarding the pharmacy reform.
"Medicinal products will remain available throughout Estonia even after the end of the transition period for the pharmacy reform. The Estonian Pharmacies' Association, representing wholesale pharmacies, is misleading people and spreading baseless fear. Its sole purpose is to persuade the Riigikogu to amend the law, which came into force almost five years ago, for the benefit of the business of wholesalers," the Ministry of Social Affairs said.
"At the end of the pharmacy reform, the Estonian Pharmacies' Association, representing the drug wholesalers, and its director, Magnum's director of quality Timo Danilov, have begun to frighten the Estonian people with interruptions to the availability of medicinal products. This kind of misleading of people is unacceptable and irresponsible," Marika Priske, secretary general of the ministry, said in a press release.
"Pharmacies that have not met the requirements of the act so far are located mainly in larger cities. When pharmacies owned by wholesalers conclude their activity, there will definitely be more of these in addition to pharmacist-owned drugstores due to market demand alone," Priske said, adding that the disappearance of a pharmacy in a major city would have no effect on the availability of medicinal products.
As of Oct. 1, there are over 200 pharmacies in Estonia with holdings by pharmacists, while 167 fully meet requirements. The Ministry of Social Affairs in cooperation with the State Agency of Medicines has mapped regions in which there are no pharmacies meeting the requirements as of right now and work is underway with them to find solutions in good time.
"People's health cannot be the subject of trade. As we can see and was said at a sitting of the Riigikogu's social affairs committee on September 24, the concentration of the retail and wholesale distribution of pharmaceuticals into a narrow circle of owners allows the service to be manipulated and provide the state with ultimatums to achieve its business goals. The intimidation with deprivation of medicinal products only confirms the need to separate retail and wholesale distribution of medicinal products," Priske said.
Instead of dealing with the activities, for which the Riigikogu gave the transitional period, for the remainder of the transitional period, the most vulnerable, that is the patients, have been frightened, the secretary general said. "The sole purpose of such action is to persuade the Riigikogu to change the law in the interests of a narrow circle of tycoons," she added.
Altogether 77 percent of the residents of Estonia expects pharmacies to operate independently from the business interests of wholesalers of medicinal products, it appears from a survey into pharmacy services commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and carried out by pollsters Eesti Uuringukeskus OU and Norstat Eesti AS.
In April, a five-year pharmacy reform will be completed as a result of which pharmacies can only be owned by pharmacists in Estonia.
The Estonian Pharmacies' Association said on Friday that the Ministry of Social Affairs, which is responsible for the pharmacy reform, has not been able to develop an analysis of the problems and impacts of the pharmacy reform or serious implementation mechanisms over the course of five years, which is why more than half of Estonian pharmacies are in danger of being closed in the spring.
Among others, members of the association include Terve Pere Apteek OU, Euroapteek OU, Pharma Group OU, which uses the trademark Sudameapteek, and Benu Apteek Eesti OU.
Terve Pere Apteek, which manages the Apotheka brand, is owned by Margus Linnamae's Magnum AS. Magnum's owner, UP Invest, also owns new agency BNS.