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Sweden's pharmacy monopoly finished

David Landes · 1 Jul 2009, 15:42

Published: 01 Jul 2009 15:42 GMT+02:00

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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.

Story continues below…

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.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:16 July 1, 2009 by justanotherexpat
I heard a rumour that Boots might be moving in on the action. Does this end of monopoly news also mean we can look forward to decent flu medicine off-prescription, instead of waiting three weeks for an appointment with the doc, paying for the visit, paying for the prescription and payingyetagain for a bottle of sodding Mollipect, about as useful as pouring diesel oil down the gullet, when a bottle of cheap, easy-to-buy Covonia or Benelyn would do the job in far less time at a third of the cost?
16:52 July 1, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
Don't count on there being a better range of over the counter drugs or much movement of prices if Boots or others move in. It is likely that there will be some Swedish rules that will control the over the counter drugs. Maybe the EU rules can allow better drugs.

I do wonder if Swedish rules will prevent a single pharmacist from "serving" several customers at once with the help of unqualified assistants???

The biggest change will probably come from better opening hours, more convenient locations and selling many more non-pharmacy items like makeup etc..
17:04 July 1, 2009 by tigger007
it's good to hear that sweden is opening it's market!

i know there will be a flood of over the counter meds,like you guys stated.i hope sweden will regulate this and keep the good meds on the market. there are so many cheap and fake meds. i will pay more for meds that the state provides than cheaper meds by these so called drug companies!
17:54 July 1, 2009 by GefleFrequentFlyer
Great news! Now I can bring over something more exciting in my luggage than hundreds of pounds of Peptol Bismol, skin lotion, Tylenol and Gold Bond.
21:55 July 1, 2009 by mkvgtired
I realize this monopoly is dissolved, but how come every European government owns multiple state run monopolies (i.e. pharmacies, alcohol, phone, power, etc, etc) but then Intel gets fined $2 Billion for monopolistic practices? I guess they should change the saying to, "when in Rome observe what the Romans are doing and do the exact opposite or else you will be fined $2 Billion". Doesn't quite have the same ring to it though.
08:45 July 2, 2009 by tewodros
Privatization has its own pros and cons , hopefully the government has analysed these before formulating the policy .I personally believe that privatization can enhance competition which maximize welfare so that society can be beneficial in the long run if it is applicable properly .

The ball is still in the hands of the gov’t to reconcile the interest of the people and, those business men who are going to buy the pharmacies and enter in to the industry through strict regulation .Otherwise it will even be the loser in the next ......
09:51 July 2, 2009 by usgepo
The break up will result in expensive but poor quality goods and services.

First prices will drop, then quality will suffer , the governing bodies will not have enough staff to protect the consumer.

The trafficking of expired or fake drugs, repackaged and sold back, is already a big problem in Europe, it has been so in the US and Asia.

Many stores will be on their own or part of a larger chain like Boots, ICA, etc.

The Apoteket staff, is trained, educated, not always super friendly, but they know, they recommend and provide advice as needed, the governance in place is very stern. From now on, it will be a free for all, profits and margins not the best interest of the consumer!

We are going back to the wild west, maybe one day not so far away your girlfriend is taking birth control pills bought at one of this new shops owned by ACME AL whatever, 9 months later, you realize she was taking talcum powder courtesy of thugs in Bulgaria making counterfeit pills.
10:36 July 2, 2009 by Zoolander428
Oh no! What am I going to do... this is a tragedy, I'll be able to buy the exact same medicine from a different store!?! What is this madness! I won't be able to rely on the government to make a decision for me... what will I ever do???

If you buy from a legitimate retailer, and you're not going to the local african fruit market to buy birth control... I highly doubt your paranoid scenarios will come true.

Comparing what Sweden's drug market will be like under this to Asia is bit far fetched. And in the US, fake drugs are not a problem... I have no idea where you get your information from. Picking one or two stories out of the news does not demonstrate a wide-spread issue. As far as the rest of Europe goes - no clue... but I'm sure others on here can comment if it's an actual problem, or another figment of your wild imagination.
10:44 July 2, 2009 by jack sprat
I dont think anyone should hold their breath.

The Swedish Govt has grimly resisted until the last possible moment various attempts by Brussels to ensure free competition on a number of things.

Even in the odd instance where it has slightly released its vice-like grip it has also ensured that it gets its pound of flesh by whatever means possible.

Whilst I am all for free trade and fair competition,looking at the instances of privatisations in the UK,Joe Public has received little or no benefit from the process in the longer term.

In many cases people are simply being ripped off big-time, allowing an increasing number of very fat cats to get even fatter.

I have no reason to believe it will be any different here with both the Govt and the Big Corporations standing at the front of the queue whilst Joe Public patiently sits at the back and waits for a better deal which is unlikely to ever arrive.
11:18 July 2, 2009 by BlackfDes
Privatisation should not be seen as a panacea for opening up the market.

Competition is a vague term bandied about by economists and politicians to justify policy decisions based on economic theory.

Back in the real world one does not have to look far to see that competition is a rare comodity, for example supermarkets - one chain really stands out but where is the competition??? Size, it seems, IS everything!

So I applaud the attempt to privatise the pharmacy market but I predict that most of the business will be sucked up by THE super large supermarket chain rendering any smaller pharmacy businesses unprofitable.

A better policy would have been to keep drugs out of the supermarket (except under exeptional circumstances like where no other outlet available in the town) and let smaller operators (owner operators = small business) run the pharmacies.
11:44 July 2, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
That will never happen. It would require trained pharmasists who have the inititaive to start up their own business.

In Sweden the trained pharmasists are almost exclusively women who mostly likely chose that career stream as it offered a safe and secure government job.
11:51 July 2, 2009 by Marley420
Now, I can start opening Coffee Shops!
12:21 July 2, 2009 by 7
is it crazy to presume that a person (man or woman) chooses a professional career because the subject/career interests them? or are you just hung up on something?
13:48 July 2, 2009 by Essingen
This is the answer to the non-existence of decent medical offerings here in Sweden. I used it around a month ago and it worked a treat...

14:05 July 2, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
That is exactly what I am saying!!!

A big part of pharmacy as a career in Sweden is that you get to work for a government organisation. In Australia, England and Ireland (where I have lived) a career in pharmacy is also a good opportunity for eventually starting up your own business.

Can you come up with a better explaination of why in the countries I mentioned the man/woman split is something like 70-30 or 60-40 but in Sweden it seems to be closer to 5-95.
14:08 July 2, 2009 by GITM
Posts on this thread (and similar ones whinging about medical support) certainly prove one thing, people take too many pills.
14:13 July 2, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
It's more like that there are not enough "fun" pills going around here to help everyone chill out and relax
20:26 July 2, 2009 by DidiE
Or do you mean that we should try dumping a shizzle load of valium in the water supply? The mind boggles thinking what the average Swede, already calm to the point of coma levels, would be like after a mega-dose of mother's little helpers. Yipes.
20:28 July 2, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
What about doing that with viagra. A glass of water before bed time and you are up all night
19:19 July 13, 2009 by endre
I presume because of the privatisation and liberasation, we will have more pharmacies and more pharmacist. I would like to work in sweden as a pharmacist. Can someone help with a vacant pharmcist position or a recriutment agency. thanks.
20:12 July 13, 2009 by BillyB
Nice to see Sweden catching up with the world!!!

So now its just Cuba and North Korea left with pharmaceutical monopolies??

Will the alcohol monopoly be next???
20:36 July 13, 2009 by Kaethar

But I'm not too worried. The German pharmacies are entering the market now and Germans also have strong restrictions on strong drugs and aren't drugged-up like the Brits and Americans.
09:11 May 23, 2011 by alexford
It will take a while before the modification will be seen, as the first private pharmacy won't open its door to the public until the late autumn.

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