Sweden's pharmacy monopoly has broken up and independent actors are entering the competition for prescription medicine sales.
Private drug stores open in Sweden.
This week, the food chain ICA opened its first "Cura" pharmacy in Sweden, followed immediately by eight more in departments of the food retailer throughout Sweden. The inception of private pharmacies for the first time in over a century has been anticipated for several years, while the Swedish owned and operated chain, Apoteket, seemed to drag its heels at every junction to slow the conversion. The drab green, nearly commercial free shops - much like the national liquor stores - were open only during weekday business hours and often had long waiting lines. Until only recent years, the state monopoly had exclusive rights to sell a wide diversity of over the counter products including facial tissues, antiseptics, headache tablets, etc. The government has also declassified a number of patent medicines from requiring prescriptions, and the cumulative result of these measures reduced Apoteket's profits to a point that it was inevitable for private interests to finally enter the market. By summer, ICA plans to have 20 more dispensing prescription medicines and offering full scale services. In two years, the grocery chain foresees 100 outlets or more that will have extended hours and be open every day. Numerous other operators, large and small, have applied for permits and will soon have most sizable towns in Sweden covered with convention and efficient pharmacy services. Locations already opened include Ica's "Maxi" outlets in Botkyrka, Gothenburg, Halmstad, Helsingborg, Karlskrona, Kungälv, Södertälje and Västerås. By summer Haninge, Linköping, Malmö, Mora, Motala, Stockholm, Sollentuna, Växjö and Ängelholm will be added. "With our aggressive plan of establishment, our locations and hours, we want to become Sweden's most accessible pharmacy. We are where our customers are and have been open at times when other pharmacies are closed," says Håkan Magnusson, business manager for Cura pharmacy at ICA Sweden.
Håkan Magnusson, business manager for Cura pharmacy at ICA Sweden. Photo courtesy of Cura.