A senior Health Ministry official in Yerevan has acknowledged certain difficulties faced by professionals in the public health domain connected with the introduction of a controversial pharmaceutical sales restriction system after the Armenian government moved to partially suspend the process earlier this week.
Lines of customers originated at pharmacies in Yerevan and other towns across Armenia on February 28 one day before the gradual entry into force of a government ban on over-the-counter sales of antibiotics and other types of medication. Confusion persisted also in the following days as many customers were not aware of the restrictions or had problems with doctors’ writing out proper prescriptions.
Starting from March 1, pharmacies, in particular, 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 that can be legally purchased in Armenia. Ministry officials said that the measure is necessary to curb self-treatment that can cause serious harm to people’s health.
Responding to widespread discontent among the public, the Armenian government decided on Tuesday to soften the ban. In particular, the current ban concerns only antibiotics, psychotropic and antiviral drugs. The bans on over-the-counter sales of medication for injections and hormone therapy drugs will come into effect in July and October, respectively.
Deputy Health Minister Sergey Khachatrian admitted they had had certain concerns even before the introduction of the new system. And those concerns, he said, were confirmed during the very first day. “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. Now we are monitoring these issues and coming up with solutions,” the official said.