Pharmacies face closure under new law

  • 2009-10-21
  • By Ella Karapetyan

OVER THE COUNTER: Changes in the law would allow easier access and lower prices for drugs, but risks a shake-up in the current distribution system.

TALLINN - According to a study by Faktum & Ariko, completed in September, the decision now under discussion in the Riigikogu, which would allow for the sale of pharmaceuticals, or medicines, in shops, supermarkets and department stores would endanger the business of 90 percent of district pharmacies, with only 3 percent able to manage the change effectively.

Today district pharmacies are facing difficult times. Around 87 percent already experience difficulties, and the changes, if made into law, would make the situation worse, forcing some to close down.
According to the survey results, changes in the new law giving permission to sell medicines in the shops won't lead to an improvement of the situation; that of lowering prices for consumers, and if the medical products are freely available in the stores that could result in failure of other sorts.
According Faktum & Ariko consultant Kadri Suits, only 3 percent of pharmacies are confident they will be able to survive after the changes. One third of the pharmacies consider it quite probable that they will have to close down, and 59 percent question how they will cope with the situation.
The research agency expects that the changes will lead to the appearance of new pharmacies in large shopping malls.

The survey also revealed what terms and conditions the druggists would agree to change their workplaces, noting that fifty-six percent of employees at pharmacies would agree to change in their workplaces as the pharmacies in small towns or districts offer higher salaries.
"Even if taking the worst case scenario, these changes will lead to a shrinking of the labor force, which will then put the pharmacies on a survival basis," explained Suits.
Suits says that, considering the sample size of the survey, it is possible to claim that changes in the law will lead to closing of 30 percent of pharmacies. The target group included pharmacies in different regions and districts throughout Estonia. In total, about 79 pharmacy owners and nearly 45 employees participated in the survey.

The head of the Department of Pharmacy at Tartu University, Professor Aleksander Zarkovski, also considers "extremely dangerous" the idea to allow petrol stations, as well as non-specialized, ordinary shops to sell medical products without a prescription.
The professor says that this will cause improper and excessive use of medicines, as well as the sale of illegal, counterfeit or expired medicines. He says that the idea to allow the sale of medical products in these kind of places should not be supported, and suggests that this amendment to the law should not be passed.