Bulgarian Pharmacy Owners Lobby for Legislative Changes

Business | November 2, 2007, Friday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0

Bulgarian pharmacy owners are threatening to take the country's government to court in the EU unless lawmakers change the current pharmacy law in the country.

Earlier this year, the MPs adopted the new law, which requires all pharmacies to be owned by qualified pharmacists, who, additionally, cannot own more than one pharmacy.

The disputed provision effectively bans pharmacy chains, unless they are based on a franchising principle.

More than 30 pharmacies have been shut down throughout the country over the last two weeks alone, based on this requirement, the head of Bulgaria's pharmacy owners association Nikolay Kostov told Darik News on Friday.

The industry union has already asked the European Commission to rule on the provisions of the law and is expecting a reply by the end of the year.

"Should we get a positive answer, that will set off a complex procedure, with which the Commission will effectively ask the Bulgarian government to change the law. If the cabinet doesn't, that paves the way for legal action in the European Court of Justice," said Kostov.

The pharmacy owners claim the particular stipulation is needlessly complicating matters, because ownership has no effect on the quality of the services, which are rendered by licences professionals.

Moreover, Bulgaria's pharmacies market needs consolidation to provide better and cheaper services, said Kostov.

Roughly 1300 pharmacies throughout the country are owned by firms that breach the law and are subject to closure, according to the association.

But some pharmacists challenge Kostov's conclusions, which focus on the economic side of the business.

"Pharmacies are first and foremost institutions that dispense health care, and as such, need to be independent and work in accordance with good pharmaceutical practices,'' said Gabriela Vuteva, secretary-general of Bulgaria's pharmacists union.

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