Pharmacies in Sweden’s remote regions, including the North, may close next year

The Apotek Renen drug store in central Stockholm on May 5, 2009. AFP Photo / Leif R Jansson Three years after a reform that multiplied the number of pharmacies around Sweden, many may have to close, at least in rural areas and in the North.

Before the reform, there was just one store where you could buy prescription or even non-prescription drugs like aspirin for every 10,000 people in Sweden.

The legislation not only sold off part of the state-owned monopoly pharmacy chain to outside interests, it also made it possible for private companies to open new stores. And suddenly there were new drugstores all around the country.

But now, Swedish Radio News says that many of those pharmacies in rural areas and smaller communities will be closing next year. This follows a new report from the Dental and Pharmaceutical Benefits Agency concluding that the drugstores in the countryside are not profitable. The agency says it will be difficult for the government to keep its goal of maintaining diversity in the pharmacy marketplace.

Mainy affected

The Kronans pharmacy chain is one of those affected. Andreas Rosenlund is their head of information. He tells Swedish Radio News that their profitability is poor, and it is difficult to recruit pharmacists. He says: “There’s no reason to keep going.”

The government is carrying out a review of the pharmacy market, and Social Welfare Minister Göran Hägglund has declined to comment until the review is finished. But the chair of parliament’s Social Welfare Committee, Kenneth Johansson, is suggesting that like the post office, instead of independent pharmacies, in smaller communities they might just have special counters in grocery stores.

But local resident Jonny Grannström in the Arctic town of Arvidsjaur disagrees. He asks “What would you do then if you needed medical advice? Should it be like other institutions”, he says, “where those needing help have to make a phone call and interact with a robot?”

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