Sweden’s government monopoly on pharmacies ends

sweden-euThe legal drugs market has finally been cracked open now that Sweden’s state-run monopoly on pharmacies has officially ended. This will allow new companies to sell prescription medications and eventually over-the-counter sales of non-prescription drugs in retail outlets.The government plans to sell almost half of its existing pharmacy outlets to private companies. As of 1 July, the country’s Medical Products Agency began accepting applications from firms hoping to open new pharmacies, according to The Local.

But the privatisation won’t happen overnight. The government is working with Apotekens Omstrukturering AB to oversee the bidding for 466 of Sweden’s 1,000 or so national pharmacies. The pharmacies will only be sold in eight groups that contain between ten and 200 stores each; and only companies that are fairly large and established will be considered.

Smaller business owners can buy stakes in a new state-owned company that will operate 150 pharmacies. The old state-run company, Apoteket AB, will keep around 300 of its pharmacies to ensure prescription medication remains available to Swedes throughout the country regardless of how the market reacts.

On 1 November, retail outlets such as grocery stores will be allowed to sell a variety of non-prescription medication to anyone over the age of 18. The drugs will be kept behind a counter, however, requiring customers to seek assistance from staff to buy any medication.