Painkillers fly off Swedish store shelves

In the first two months of trading after the government overhaul of pharmacies in Sweden, supermarkets and petrol stations reaped around 10 percent of the non-prescription drug market.

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.

”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.

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