Health officials and drug firms in Romania have clashed over attempts to curb the expansion of pharmacy chains in the country. The Ministry of Health claims that such measures are crucial to prevent monopolies and support independent operators. Pharmacy groups claim such legislation will restrict choice and negatively impact competition.
One of the proposed changes will prohibit drug distributors from owning pharmacy chains. The Pharmaceutical Distributors and Importers Association criticised the move alleging that it will force firms with both distribution and pharmacy operations to sell parts of their business quickly, at a lower value, and that it will also cause drug sales to decline.
A further measure will restrict the number of pharmacies in one area. For example, cities with a population of less than 400,000 will not be allowed to have more than four pharmacies from any one chain. Industry observers fear the law will be ineffective in the long-term as pharmacy operators will merely find ways to change their management structures and undermine legislation.
Opponents of the new laws also point out that Romania does not have a serious problem, with monopolies citing the fact that only 30% of pharmacies belong to chains and the largest chain only has market share of 2%.