TALLINN – The Riigikogu on Tuesday turned down a bill of amendments filed by the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) that would have effectively canceled the pharmacy reform.
The bill was voted out of the parliament's agenda in the first reading by a vote of 46 to 42. In total 89 members of the Riigikogu were present. Of deputies of the ruling three-party coalition, Enn Eesmaa, Siret Kotka, Oudekki Loone, Tarmo Tamm and Marika Tuus-Laul voted in favor of dumping the bill.
The EKRE pharmacy reform bill would have canceled the restriction on pharmacy ownership, given hospital pharmacies the right to sell medicines to people and allowed pharmacies to buy medicinal products directly from the manufacturer.
The authors of the bill rejected by lawmakers on Tuesday argued that as part of the pharmacy reform extensive restrictions have been imposed on the holders of a general pharmacy operating license, whereas actually there are no problems in Estonia when it comes to the existing number of pharmacies and their ownership structure, or the quality of the services provided by them. EKRE also found that the pharmacy reform taking effect after a transition period on April 1 will bring with it closures of pharmacies in rural areas and an increase in prices.
The social affairs committee on Feb. 20 proposed that the first reading of the pharmacy reform bill submitted by EKRE be completed and recommended to reject the bills submitted by the Social Democratic Party (SDE), which are to be put to first reading on Feb. 26.
Opposition SDE wants to postpone the deadline of the reform until Jan. 1, 2021 in places such as rural areas where no pharmacy meets the requirements of the reform by the current deadline. One of the amendments by SDE would also make it possible for a general pharmacy to belong to several pharmacists if they own at least 80 percent of the pharmacy combined and one of them is the manager of the pharmacy.
Another bill submitted by SDE seeks to enable hospital pharmacies the opportunity to import medicinal products themselves and also allow hospital pharmacies, in addition to supplying hospital departments, carry out the retail sale of medicinal products at the hospitals.
If none of the bills are passed, the law in place now will allow only pharmacists to own and operate pharmacies in Estonia from April 1 onwards.