Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Sweden - Pharmacy Market Reform Bill Will Come into Force in July 2009

From July 1st 2009, there will be both state-owned and private outpatient pharmacies in Sweden. The pharmacy market reform is expected to result in more pharmacies with longer opening hours, increasing access for patients. Sweden is one of few countries in the world to have a state monopoly in the pharmacy market, with the Apoteket chain, which has been in place for 35 years.

One important issue is that pharmacies will be allowed to negotiate with branded and generic drugmakers on purchase prices for medicinal products. The new model will maintain price pressure while providing the conditions for a greater number of pharmacies to establish themselves on the market. The model approved by the government means that:
  • Freedom of pricing will be maintained for over-the-counter (OTC) medicines
  • Price competition via a national marketplace will be maintained for generic medicines
  • Pharmacies will be given the chance to negotiate on the price of original pharmaceutical products

Apoteket will remain a key competitor in the market, with 330 of the 946 pharmacies currently owned by Apoteket remaining under state ownership. The remainder will be sold to other competitors, and a proportion of those remaining will be transferred to a newly formed company that will have individual entrepreneurs as partners. This will allow small-scale enterprise within the framework of a functioning support structure, with the intention that the partners will eventually be able to buy out their pharmacies. The only restriction is that neither physicians nor drugmakers will be allowed to own a pharmacy.

There are several potential bidders for the pharmacies, including Celesio, Tamro, Oriola and Alliance Boots. The pharmacies will be sold in two nationwide clusters, of 200 pharmacies and 170 pharmacies, alongside a number of regional clusters with 20 pharmacies in each.

The government has also proposed selling OTC medicines in shops, in addition to pharmacies. The Medical Products Agency will be instructed to decide which products are allowed to be sold in this way, and there will be an age limit of 18 for purchasing OTC products in shops. This will come into force in November 2009.

Further reading - An in-depth review of the Swedish pharmaceutical market, including information on the deregulation of the pharmacy state monopoly, is available from Espicom: The Pharmaceutical Market: Sweden (published April 2009)

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