The Minister of Health and Labour Riina Sikkut replied to the interpellation concerning the situation of branch pharmacies (No. 454), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Jaak Madison, Mart Helme, Raivo Põldaru, Arno Sild, Henn Põlluaas, Uno Kaskpeit, Peeter Ernits and Martin Helme on 8 November.
The interpellators referred to the Estonian Pharmacies Association who had repeatedly drawn the attention of the Ministry of Social Affairs to the problem in the Medicinal Products Act that had not allowed managers of pharmacies today to transform branch pharmacies into general pharmacies.
Sikkut said that, as at 1 November this year, there were 489 pharmacies in Estonia, 345 of them principal pharmacies and 144 branch pharmacies. “Besides, 80 of the 144 branch pharmacies are in the country or in cities with a population of over 4000 people, and this closing down in summer 2019 or on 1 April 2020 does not and would not have affected them,” the minister said. She explained that there were 64 pharmacies that did not meet the requirements arising from the amendments to the Medicinal Products Act as at 1 November. “They are the pharmacies that are affected by the reorganisation of the activities of branch pharmacies. Among them, there are pharmacies owned by dispensing chemists as well as those connected with wholesalers. At some places of business of branch pharmacies today, it is possible to bring the activities of the pharmacy into conformity with the requirements for general pharmacy,” Sikkut noted. According to her explanations, it was possible for them to increase their area to meet the requirements, and thus it was possible to apply for an activity licence for continuing the service as a general pharmacy at the same place of business. “At the same time, reorganisation of a branch pharmacy into a general pharmacy is impossible for holders of activity licences today who do not meet the requirement according to which the owner must be a dispensing chemist or who are connected with medicinal product manufacturers or wholesalers of medicinal products,” the minister said. She added that it was possible for the latter to continue to provide pharmacy service on the basis of the current activity licences until 1 April 2020. However, as to branch pharmacies, both pharmacies owned by dispensing chemists and other holders of activity licences who fail to meet the requirement of ownership of pharmacy will have to reorganise their activities.
Sikkut said that the closing down of branch pharmacies in cities did not concern rural areas, and therefore that did not affect the availability of medicinal products in rural areas. “Branch pharmacies as pharmacies with simplified requirements will remain in place, and it will be possible to operate them in rural areas,” the minister said. She added that there was the option of using the services of internet pharmacies and bus pharmacies in areas of low demand. “In the country where dispensing chemists are harder to find, where turnover is smaller, where it is more complicated for pharmacies to manage economically, allowing branch pharmacies with simpler requirements is justified,” Sikkut explained.
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