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PJ Online | News: Irish deregulation petition attracts 300,000 signatures

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The Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 268 No 7194 p521-527
20 April 2002

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Irish deregulation petition attracts 300,000 signatures

More than 300,000 people in the Irish Republic are publicly backing pharmacists in their opposition to the government's decision to deregulate the sector.

That is the number who have signed a protest petition organised by the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) through a window poster campaign in shops across the country. Now IPU vice-president Richard Collis is to present the petition to Health Minister Micheal Martin as evidence of the strength of public feeling on the issue.

"We are delighted with the level of support received from our customers," said IPU president Marie Hogan. "They have clearly demonstrated that not only do they value the role of their local pharmacist, but that they wish to continue to have access to local services from community pharmacists rather than supermarkets or multinational companies."

The government's deregulation decision was taken without consultation, and in the middle of an official review of the pharmacy sector. The IPU is pressing for interim arrangements to be put in place to bring stability to the market. It is urging the minister to indicate how he intends to support and sustain pharmacies in rural communities and deprived urban areas in the absence of regulations. The current situation is complicated by the fact that an Irish general election is due in May which means that the practical implementation of deregulation will fall to the next government. But the upcoming election also offers the IPU an opportunity to exert pressure on candidates.

As part of their continuing protest campaign, pharmacists are refusing to make electronic returns to the health service payments board, which reimburses doctors, and instead have reverted to paperwork. They are also refusing to take on new methadone patients, despite a warning from the government minister in charge of drug rehabilitation, Eoin Ryan, that "vulnerable addicts, trying to break the habit, will suffer".

In the high street, meanwhile, deregulation is already having an impact. According to leading Dublin estate agency Gunnes, the value of pharmacy outlets has fallen by 20 per cent since the scrapping of the regulations two months ago.
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