RASK successfully handles dispute concerning independent pharmacies in the Supreme Court.
In 2014 and 2015, Estonia adopted the decision to implement the pharmacy ownership reform by 2020. The decisions provided for amendments to the Medicinal Products Act that stipulated the principle that the owner of a pharmacy should be a pharmacist and that pharmaceutical services be subject to restrictions on ownership and integration. In RASK’s opinion, however, the actions of the Pharmaceutical Board and pharmacy franchises were not in accordance with the pharmacy reform, since pharmacy franchises with the permission of the Agency of Medicines sought to out compete the small pharmacies run by pharmacists in small towns even before implementation of the reform.
In particular, the Tamsalu Uus Apteek requested RASK to seek an annulment of the decision of the Pharmaceutical Board, whereby the pharmacy chain Euroapteek was allowed to start operating in Tamsalu. The appellant stated that according to the law, the activity of a pharmacy is limited to the place of business indicated in the activity license, and changing the address or opening a new pharmacy is no longer an option for the pharmacy franchise. A new license should be sought for the new location, which should follow the proprietary and integration restrictions set in 2014 and 2015.
Tartu Administrative Court and Tartu District Court dismissed the appeals. The Supreme Court, for its part, decided in favour of the appellant, abolishing both the decisions of the administrative and district courts. At the same time, the Supreme Court annulled the decision of the Pharmaceutical Board to grant Euroapteek permission to open a branch pharmacy in Tamsalu.
The judgment by the Supreme Court has significant implications not only in the case of pharmacies operated by pharmacists, but may also serve as a valuable indicator in many other similar lawsuits related to transitional periods with regard to laws. More generally, the question was how thorough the regulation governing the transition to the new law should be and what role the transition period itself should play in order to ensure the realistic implementation of the goals set by the national reform. The Supreme Court emphasized in its decision the strict interpretation of the implementing provisions and the need to take into account the goals of the changing legal order.