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Broad liberalization and back to state-run pharmacies

Sale of medicinal products: Project Lithuania 2018

Lively critical discussion has been taking place in the Lithuanian media over recent weeks on the advantages and disadvantages of planned amendments to the Lithuanian Pharmacy Law. These foresee three major “novelties”: certain over-the-counter (OTC) products being sold outside pharmacies; Rx (prescription) products being sold over the Internet; private or state-owned health care organizations (HCOs) again being able to operate their own pharmacies ‒ so far only allowed for in-patient health care organizations. 

The Lithuanian Ministry of Health argues that the proposed amendments are necessary because consumers are charged high prices for medicinal products; people in rural areas lack proper access to medicinal products; and an electronic prescription system eases distribution of medicinal products by distance sale. But the main reason mentioned by the Ministry for re-establishing the operation of its own pharmacies in HCOs is the inability of HCOs to safely organize the huge demand for medicinal products on the basis of their own structures and at the same time a steadily growing portfolio of health services.

Should the Lithuanian Parliament approve the amendments, retail companies without a licence for pharmacies would in future be allowed to sell certain OTC products. To be added to the appropriate list of companies, they should possess facilities with a licence to sell food products but not located in a restaurant, or similar facilities in a cultural or educational organization or in residential premises. The company, the company manager and company employees must have not violated the law related to medicinal products. Sale will not be allowed via vending machines. Retail companies will not be allowed to consult consumers on medicinal products. Price labels will not be able to show reduced prices. The only OTC products to be sold will be those included in a special official list and that comply with further requirements.

HCOs would be allowed to establish and operate their own pharmacies to supply themselves with medicinal products for their own demand. In addition, day hospitals will be able to supply their own patients with reimbursable medicinal products necessary for the therapy of the patient on a particular day.

Distance sale of Rx products, except for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, would be possible if an electronic prescription has been issued for them.

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