In Lithuania, the federal government until recently required that pharmacies have at least one full-time pharmacist on shift at all times. The Lithuanian Free Market Institute (LFMI), an Atlas Network partner, spearheaded an effort to roll back this mandate that drove up regulatory compliance costs and especially hurt small pharmacies and communities.
Throughout Lithuania, many pharmacies preferred to employ more pharmacy technicians rather than pharmacists because of a shortage of pharmacists and the relatively larger salaries pharmacists commanded in the market.
LFMI produced a solid research study highlighting the negative impacts this regulation had on access to medication and smaller pharmacies and the detrimental implications on the economy as a whole that would result from maintaining said policy. LFMI was approached by the board of the Parliament requesting an independent expert review of the legislation and a testimony in the Parliament to present their findings. This research eventually led to LFMI presenting informed policy recommendations to the lawmakers.
During their Parliamentary hearing, LFMI presented compelling evidence to support their recommendations to repeal the existing pharmaceutical mandate, eventually resulting in the adoption of their proposals into law. If the mandate were to continue, the research findings showed, 272 pharmacies across the country would reduce their operating hours, driving down the overall amount of pharmacy opening hours by 23 percent. Additionally, 150 pharmacies (11 percent of pharmacies in Lithuania) would close in the upcoming term if changes were not made, resulting in many rural and underserved areas losing direct access to medicine. The research also suggested that as many as 28 percent of pharmacy technicians would likely lose their jobs.
“The adopted deregulation policy is instrumental in helping maintain competition in the pharmacy sector, which will directly benefit patients,” LFMI’s vice president Aneta Vaine said. She went on to proclaim that the deregulation will not only assist smaller pharmacies in staying afloat in the marketplace but will also “secure better access to and prices for medications for all patients.”
The Lithuanian Free Market Institute has built an incredible amount of momentum for the freedom movement in Eastern Europe. However, their work is never finished. LFMI recently submitted to the newly appointed cabinet a package of recommendations for systemic deregulation of the pharmaceuticals sector and reforming medication price regulations. They also secured an invitation from the Lithuanian healthcare minister to discuss healthcare reform priorities within the upcoming cabinet term.
Atlas Network supported this initiative with a grant.