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Sweden's pharmacy monopoly finished

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Sweden's pharmacy monopoly finished
15:42 CEST+02:00
Sweden's state-run pharmacy monopoly ended on Wednesday, paving the way for new entrants into the market for drug sales and for the eventual sale of non-prescription drugs in other retail outlets.

In addition, negotiations are continuing for the sale of up to two-thirds of the country's existing pharmacy outlets.

Starting July 1st, Sweden's Medical Products Agency (Läkemedelsverket) started accepting applications from companies looking to open new pharmacies.

But a representative from the agency urged those anxious to start a new pharmacy to remain patient.

“There's no reason to stress out about getting your application in at this time,” said chief inspector Tor Gråberg in a statement.

“There's a high risk that people may forget to include the necessary information which will cause the application processing time to take longer than expected.”

Läkemedelsverket is also working together with Apotekens Omstrukturering AB, the company set up by the government to assist with the sell-off of individual pharmacies, to manage the bidding process for the sale of 466 of the country's nearly 1,000 individual pharmacies.

The pharmacies will be sold to large and medium-sized companies in eight clusters numbering between ten and 200 pharmacies each.

In addition, 150 pharmacies will be moved into a state-owned company which will then offer majority stakes to small business owners.

The state-run company, Apoteket AB, will hold on to more than 300 pharmacies to ensure that medicines are available to residents across the country, regardless of market conditions.

Another step in the pharmacy monopoly deregulation, set to take effect on November 1st, will allow grocery stores and other retail outlets to sell certain non-prescription drugs to customers over the age of 18.

The medications will be kept behind store counters, requiring shoppers to ask for assistance in order to complete a purchase.

In 2008, total drug sales in Sweden reached roughly 28 billion kronor ($3.7 billion). Since 1999, sales have increased by nearly 5 percent annually.

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