Pharmacists chamber dissatisfied with Parliament's decision

Parliament moved one step closer April 13 to postponing the start of a new law which would strengthen the qualifications necessary for pharmacies to distribute drugs. The move drew fire from health professionals who said the law is in the public interest and should not be turned back due to heavy lobbying on the part of unqualified pharmacists.

The new law stipulates that only pharmacists can operate pharmacies in Slovakia. So far, corporate entities and individuals owning pharmacies have not been required to have pharmaceutical education. To comply with the provisions of the law, owners without pharmaceutical education will have to discontinue providing pharmaceutical services, transfer their property to an individual with pharmaceutical education, or conclude a contract with an owner of a license for providing such services based on the Slovak Commercial Code. The law also stipulates that all pharmacies must have a laboratory and that all operators of pharmacies must apply for a license.

The revision being considered by parliament would postpone the start of the law from June 1, 1999, to June 1, 2000.

The Presidium of the Slovak Chamber of Pharmacists said they were "deeply disillusioned" upon hearing that the legal revision was advanced to a second reading in Parliament. The presidium said that this " at odds with experiences in Slovak pharmacies in recent years, morals and ethics, the fundamental interest of the health sector and the society, and heading of Slovakia into the EU."

But the law on drugs is strongly opposed by owners of pharmacies lacking the needed education, who maintain that the state enabled them to start businesses in the past and that it cannot now halt this development. Representatives of the Association of Owners of Pharmacies (GML) claim that the revision will seriously damage nearly 600 pharmacies, hamper access of patients to drugs, and decrease the number of pharmacies. It also claims the bill violates their constitutional rights, and that Slovakia lacks a sufficient number of pharmacists to make the law immediately practical.

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