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Painkillers fly off Swedish store shelves

TT/Christine Demsteader · 22 Jan 2010, 16:26

Published: 22 Jan 2010 16:26 GMT+01:00

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The sale of over-the-counter medicines in grocery stores and petrol stations began in November last year when the Swedish state sold off 465 of its estimated 900 Apoteket pharmacies to private firms.

The move also opened up the market for prescription-free products, an industry worth around 3.5 billion kronor ($484 million) in Sweden annually.

According to supermarket trade magazine Fri Köpenskap, private outlets have already achieved sales corresponding to 350 million ($48,414) crowns a year.

A 20-tablet pack of headache remedy Alvedon has proved a successful seller, with shops taking 14 percent of the market in that specific product.

At present, shops and other businesses selling non-prescription drugs are forced into a more expensive wholesale price than Apoteket because they buy in smaller volumes.

That cost difference is passed on to the consumer.

”With a given consumer price, Apoteket has average margins of 30-35 percent while supermarket chains have 25 percent,” said Thomas Svaton, CEO of Svensk Dagligvaruhandel (Swedish Food Retailers' Federation) to the magazine.

But he predicts that shops will have the selling power to drop prices in the future.

Story continues below…

”In countries where these types of remedies have been sold in this way for many year, prices are up to 15 percent cheaper than in pharmacies,” Svaton added.

TT/Christine Demsteader (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:49 January 22, 2010 by Audrian
I do not understand the reason for this move. Apoteket has been bringing hefty profit for the state and its service has been more than satisfactory. Hefty state income can be used for improving welfare service to homeless people or those below the poverty line.

If Apoteket had failed to operate effectively I would have seen the need to sale part or all of its business interest.

Right now the government is testing the ground. If voters show no reaction, it might sell all of Apoteket to the private. The US economic model has proved to be a failure. In the US, private medical care has clogged the sector with considerable inefficiencies and corruption. Medical care is costing US tax payers twice as much per head than comparable countries. This is against the background that 20% of US population does not have access to medical care and that their status is worse than those in west European countries.
18:25 January 22, 2010 by SaxSymbol73
I completely agree Audrian. It seems a crime and a shame to sell out for cheap headache pills. Such is the siren song and allure of freemarket hucksters.

Monopolies are only bad and "stifle competition" when the market is poorly served. From what I can see, Apoteket's were no frills pharmacies, selling a selection of well chosen products.

It seems people want to be able buy OTC at their local grocery--what would have been wrong with Apoteket's opening small shops in partnership with ICA or Coop? That wouldn't sate the EU nor the Alliansen, who are bound and determined to replay Thatcherism 30 years later.

Sometimes too much choice is also a problem; happiness diminishes because people are always second-guessing their choices (*I don't really like this--if only I'd picked the other"). But now Swedes will gorge themselves on cheap Alvedon and Lamisil, chuckling about how great capitalism is, when the country rots around them.
19:05 January 22, 2010 by dwb5555
Audrian and SaxSymbol73

Sorry but you both are wrong. Apoteket was not satisfactory. The hours they were open was terrrible. So if you need something at 19:00 or later you were out of luck.

Also sweden can see the writting on the wall, in the future the Eu will ban these state companies as that prevent any competition.

Audrain you seem to know nothing about the USA system as the problem that occurs there has nothing to do with access to drugs its the price based on other facters and the overall medical system. Please read more information before commenting.
20:00 January 22, 2010 by Cowbridge
Sweden has chosen to be a part of the EU which means that Apoteket's days were numbered, as are Systembolaget's. Sweden is slowly in the process of normalizing itself to be in line with the new globalized world culture that is currently developing around the world.
21:50 January 22, 2010 by peropaco
@Audrian and SaxSymbol73

Your opinions although are very welcomed; they belong to a diferent era when Feudalism and draconiang practices used to be the rule of the day. We are in a 21st century Europe and the likes of apoteket and systembologet do not belong to this modern world. We dont need the government controlled institutions to tell us what kind of headache medicines we should buy or when and where. I was in Paris not two days ago and it was so refreshing to find a Nicolas(liquor joint) and a farmacy open at 20:07 just 50 metres from my hotel. To hell with Apoteket and Systembologet.
23:15 January 22, 2010 by lungfish
Well well, I can remember being as sick as a dog, as they say, with a sore throat, headaches, blocked sinuses, etc. on a Sunday, and of course all of the Apoteket outlets were shut. So I guess the satisfactory service mentioned by Audrian and SaxSymbol73 applies when one is NOT sick and in no need of non-prescription medications. It was a matter of no access to needed medications because the government wanted the income. Great system and thank goodness it's gone. That was not socialism, just stupidity.
03:13 January 23, 2010 by Davey-jo
In the UK you can buy Ibuprofen, Aspirin and so on in every supermarket , newsagents, just about any shop that wants to sell them. No problem. Same with booze; lots of outlets open at most hours. This however horrifies and gives cause for concern to those who want look after us & our health and well being. We might go out and buy an aspirin that they don't know about. Shock horror.

Our pharmacies are open all hours but on a rota system so you have to know which one is open on the night when you're dying; this is where religion comes in I guess.....
13:15 January 23, 2010 by Puffin
The reform is great for those of us who live in rural areas - no longer a 35-40 km (60 at weekends) round trip for a headache pill.

However I have to take issue with one part of the article - most of the shops near me have had an over the counter medication cupboard for at least 6 months - it's not recent
01:50 January 25, 2010 by Da Goat
This is a great idea !

Last time i was in Sweden I came down with a thumping headache while away from home, in gamla stan and had to walk for "forever" to find a Apotek for some Aspirin!

You suddenly realise just how hard gamla stan is to navigate when your head is thumping

Thank God it was normal business hours, but a more widespread availability would have saved me much pain and trouble !
19:00 January 27, 2010 by DamnImmigrant
Yah, this is a very positive step!

The fact that you could not get pain killers from stores or even service stations made no sense at all.

This will not make prescription medicine more expensive. It WILL get us more choice in our over the counter stuff.
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