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The Riigikogu approved with 49 votes in favour (3 against) the Act on Amendments to the Medicinal Products Act (782 SE), initiated by the Social Affairs Committee, which provides for the organisation of pharmacies centred on dispensing chemists. The aim is to ensure the availability of pharmacy services in rural areas and to prevent pharmacies from concentrating in cities which would worsen the situation of country pharmacies.

When the Act enters into force, dispensing chemists will become holders of activity licence of general pharmacy and restrictions will be established to the issue of an activity licence of general pharmacy: a self-employed person must be a dispensing chemist and work as the head at at least one of the general pharmacies operating on the basis of the activity licence issued to him or her. In the case of legal person in private law, more than 50 per cent of the shares thereof and dominant influence must belong to the dispensing chemist who works as the head at at least one of the general pharmacies operating on the basis of the activity licence issued to him or her.

A dispensing chemist may be connected with up to four general pharmacies in a settlement with 4000 or more inhabitants. In settlements with a smaller population, the number of pharmacies is not restricted. The restriction of owning the shares of up to four general pharmacies applies to all shareholders, also to owners of minority shares.

„Giving the leading role in the pharmacy sector to dispensing chemists who are health care professionals should ensure more natural long-term sustainable development of the pharmacy system based on the needs of the population and the state, and not on business interests,“ member of the Social Affairs Committee Aare Heinvee said at the second reading of the Bill.

“With the transition to dispensing chemists’ pharmacies, the organisation of pharmacies is transferred to health care principles and the pharmacy service is integrated more efficiently with the primary health care system,“ the Chairman of the Social Affairs Committee Heljo Pikhof added.

The period of transition to pharmacies in which the dispensing chemist has a qualifying holding and to the separation of the ownership relation of the wholesale and retail sale of medicinal products is harmonised to five years. Activity licences of general pharmacy will have to be brought into conformity with the new requirements by 1 April 2020. In the transition period, at least 10 persons owning a general pharmacy may be obligated to provide pharmacy services in areas of low demand. The Act enters into force pursuant to general procedure, that is, on the tenth day following the date of publication in the Riigi Teataja.

Marika Tuus-Laul who took the floor during the debate was in favour of the passing of the Act.