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MONOPOLY

‘Let health food shops sell herbal medicine’

Plant-based medicines should continue to be sold in normal shops, according to an official inquiry.

The chief of the government’s inquiry had been asked to look at whether the Apoteket pharmacy monopoly should take over sale of alternative medicines, something he recommends against. He does, however, call for increased regulation of the sector.

The inquiry follows an EU directive from 2004, which stipulated that many herbal remedies were to be treated as medicines. But inquiry chief Anders Lönnberg said that this should not lead to the controversial monopoly being handed control of the sale of herbal treatments.

“Plant-based medicines that are currently prescription-only should remain under Apoteket’s monopoly. But those that are prescription-free and which have been redefined as medicines should continue to be able to be sold in health-food shops,” he said.

The 15 prescription-free plant-based medicines over which Apoteket currently has a monopoly should, said Lönnberg, be able to be sold in ordinary shops. But, he proposed, shops that sell such preparations should employ a pharmacist or equivalent.

“This will benefit those serious players in the health-food sector.”

Social Minister Göran Hägglund also announced on Monday that he would soon present new directives for the inquiry into Apoteket’s future, although it was not clear exactly what the new directives would involve.

RACISM

Pharmacy to launch plasters for darker skin

Swedish pharmacy chain Apoteket has told The Local it is hoping to offer a range of bandaids suitable for customers with darker skin tones by the end of the year as part of efforts to cut discrimination.

Pharmacy to launch plasters for darker skin
An Apoteket store in Stockholm. Photo: Roger Vikström/TT
The company, which has 370 stores across Sweden said it had come up with the idea after talking to a number of Swedish anti-racism charities.
 
“We're looking at whether it's possible to have different coloured plasters but we haven't made a final decision on it yet,” Communications Director Eva Fernvall told The Local on Wednesday.
 
“It won't happen by next week but we hope to have something in place by the end of the year,” she added.
 
Apoteket faced criticism earlier this week by a Swedish blogger who runs the website Vardagsrasismen.nu (which translates as 'Everyday Racism').
 
Paula Dahlberg told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio on Monday that the pharmacy giant was contributing to racism by only offering shades of beige plasters (also called bandaids in some countries) on its shelves.
 
But Fernvall insisted that the company's decision to trial darker products was made long before the writer made the comments.
 
“The fact she said that demonstrates that there are heated discussions about immigrants and refugees right now,” she said, adding that the national chemist chain was committed to reducing discrimination.
 
She admitted that the plaster plan was “unusual” and noted that she had “never heard of anything like this in any other countries”.
 
Debates around immigration have intensified over the last 12 months in Sweden, which currently takes in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU nation.
 
The nationalist Sweden Democrat party is the third largest in parliament after winning 12.9 percent of the vote in elections in September 2014 and is continuing to gain public support.
 
Sweden's government has said it is committed to maintaining the nation's reputation for tolerance and offering help to refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East and Africa. But it has welcomed efforts by the European Commission to encourage other European Union member states to take in a greater share of asylum seekers.