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Armenia Addressing Problems With Curbs On Drug Sales

A pharmacy in Yerevan
A pharmacy in Yerevan

A senior Armenian Health Ministry official has acknowledged that the government's controversial new restrictions on pharmaceutical sales touched off some problems, but he said Yerevan is moving to resolve them.

Deputy Health Minister Sergey Khachatrian said on March 7 that health officials suspected problems might arise even before the new system was introduced, and those concerns were confirmed on the first day.

Lines of customers formed at pharmacies in Yerevan and other towns across Armenia on February 28, one day before the phased entry into force of a government ban on over-the-counter sales of antibiotics and other types of medication.

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As the restrictions took effect, confusion persisted as many customers were not aware of the restrictions or had problems with obtaining doctors’ prescriptions for the medicines, as required under the new system.

Starting on March 1, pharmacies were not allowed to sell, without prescriptions signed by doctors, antibiotics, hormone therapy drugs, and painkillers containing codeine – a total of 2,700 of roughly 4,700 medicines sold in Armenia.

Ministry officials said the restrictions were needed to curb self-treatment that can cause serious harm to people’s health.

Responding to the confusion and widespread discontent among the public, the government on March 6 softened the ban by narrowing its application only to antibiotics, psychotropic, and antiviral drugs.

The bans on over-the-counter sales of medication for injections and hormone therapy drugs are now due to go into effect in July and October, respectively.

“Although a lot of preparatory work had been done, in practice a number of problems began to emerge in connection with the filling [of prescriptions], patients’ visiting doctors, the lists of drugs for over-the-counter sale and sale by prescription only," Khachatrian said.

"Now we are monitoring these issues and coming up with solutions,” he said.

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