EC threatens to fine Estonian pharmacies

  • 2006-05-11
  • By TBT staff
RIGA - The European Commission announced today that it would launch a violation proceeding against Estonia over local pharmacies' negligence to recognize prescriptions issued in other EU countries, the Postimees daily reported.

In April, the government received a letter from the EU executive highlighting the fact that Estonian drugstores only recognize domestically issued prescriptions, thereby violating market and service freedoms stipulated in the EU treaty. Charlie McCreevy, who is in charge of the EC's internal market and services, signed the letter, notifying Estonia that a violation proceeding would be launched. Unless the Baltic state reworks its prescription-handling rules to meet EU requirements, it will be fined. The letter was in response to a complaint from Sweden about the refusal of an Estonian pharmacy to recognize a Swedish prescription.

The Social Affairs Ministry's leading specialist, Andre Vetka, said the ministry plans to amend its legal acts by the end of this year. As of 2007, he said, prescriptions issued in all EU member states will be recognized in Estonia. In addition to changing a ministerial decree, the State Agency of Medicines would have to issue new regulations for pharmacy staff.

Vetka highlighted the importance of patient safety, clarifying that the pharmacist has the right to decline a medicine if the prescription is incomprehensible. Estonia also intends to establish restrictions concerning narcotic and psychotropic substances, he said.

The specialist added that, in EU countries, prescriptions are not as easily controlled as in Estonia. France, for example, only recognizes prescriptions written on ordinary sheets of paper rather than special forms. Sweden faced a similar violation proceeding in 2001 and changed its laws thereafter. At present only Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Norway and Sweden recognize all prescriptions issued in the EU.