There are rumblings between the pharmacies in Germany and the federal government. After there was already a day of protest in mid-June during which a number of branches remained closed, the dispute is now entering a new round. The industry sees itself as underfinanced, complains about a shortage of personnel and warns of a poorer supply of medicines.

The effects of the dispute will once again be felt by customers this Wednesday: Many pharmacies nationwide will be closed from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Federal Association of German Pharmacists’ Associations (ABDA) announced on Tuesday, one day before the start of the German Pharmacists’ Day . This starts on Wednesday afternoon. Delegates from 17 chambers of pharmacists and 17 pharmacy associations will discuss the situation in the industry until Friday.

Just at the start of the association meeting, many pharmacies in Germany are supposed to close for a few hours. However, it is said that the supply of the population will be ensured by the emergency pharmacies during this time.

Official reason for the closures: The pharmacy teams should be given the opportunity to follow the greeting from Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) at the opening event of Pharmacists’ Day live on the Internet. The minister will not be coming to Düsseldorf in person. He will give a live speech. How long this would take was not known in advance.

More than 300 industry delegates from all parts of Germany will be gathering in the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia from Wednesday. The mood among pharmacists in this country is bad. In a recent representative ABDA survey, around two thirds (63.6 percent) of the pharmacy operators surveyed said they feared that the economic situation of their own pharmacy would worsen in the next two to three years. More than 80 percent of those surveyed even saw bleak future prospects for the industry.

The pharmacists’ associations are therefore calling for a rapid increase in pharmacy remuneration by 2.7 billion euros per year and for an automated linking of fees to cost developments in the future. The ABDA justifies the demand for the fixed surcharge on medications prescribed by prescription, which is particularly important for pharmacy fees, and was last increased in 2013.

“The pharmacies are struggling, but they have the impression that their commitment to health policy is neither sufficiently recognized nor particularly appreciated or even appropriately rewarded,” complained ABDA President Gabriele Overwiening in the run-up to Pharmacists’ Day.

Minister Lauterbach commented on the situation of pharmacies in the Wednesday edition of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” and suggested more flexible requirements for the facilities, especially in rural areas. “So that there is no shortage of supplies, we will make it easier to set up and operate branches in rural areas,” said the SPD politician. According to the ministry, requirements for branches such as laboratory facilities and mandatory night and emergency services should be eliminated and opening times should be able to be handled more flexibly.

In branches, pharmaceutical-technical assistants should also be able to provide on-site advice if they have a digital connection to a pharmacist in the main pharmacy. As an incentive, fees should also be increased in structurally weak areas. As Lauterbach has already announced, part of the legal plans should also be to make it easier for pharmacies to use substitute medicines when children’s medicines are in short supply.

There was an immediate sharp protest from the pharmacists’ association ABDA. The plans would “completely pull the rug out from under the pharmacies,” said President Overwiening. Advice from licensed pharmacists would be cut back and patients would have to travel long distances for emergency services. “The minister’s assumption that his plans could result in more branch establishments is far-fetched.”

The situation currently appears to be in disarray. The dispute between pharmacies and the federal government is unlikely to be resolved for a long time.

Sources: dpa, Abda

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