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PJ Online | News: Irish pharmacists risk prosecution if action taken over deregulation

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The Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 268 No 7195 p557-561
27 April 2002

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Irish pharmacists risk prosecution if action taken over deregulation

Pharmacists in the Irish Republic have been warned that they could face prosecution if they go ahead with a threat of industrial action over deregulation of the sector.

Members of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union across the Republic have voted by a 3-1 majority to take such action, which would include withdrawal from state contracts and schemes covering medical cards and drug payments, as well as the temporary closure of pharmacies. The IPU said the campaign would be implemented unless there was "a satisfactory outcome" in ongoing negotiations with Health Minister Micheal Martin.

But in an uncompromising message delivered to IPU headquarters in Dublin, the Irish Competition Authority chairman, Dr John Fingleton, has warned that any collective action against deregulation would be in breach of competition law, and that members would face prosecution in the courts. Dr Fingleton said he was making the warning public to alert pharmacists generally about the risk of prosecution. A successful prosecution under competition law could result in a fine of over e3m and/or a two-year jail sentence.

The IPU, in a brief statement, said it would be consulting its legal advisers on the warning. Earlier, announcing the result of the members' ballot, it had said that pharmacists throughout the country were still angry at minister Mr Martin's decision to revoke the regulations governing the market.

The minister, it claimed, had expressed his commitment to community based pharmacy services and had acknowledged the need for arrangements to bring stability to the sector, pending the report of the review group. But it added: "Despite intensive efforts over the past 10 weeks, there has been little substantive progress on the key issues."

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