Minister’s meds market fix gets green light

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The government on Tuesday approved amendments to Cabinet regulations on parallel imports of medications as proposed by the Health Ministry.

The ministers’ conceptual support for the amendments came after much heated discussion amidst controversy over Health Minister Guntis Belēvičs’ (ZZS) plans to swiftly reform the existing state market control mechanisms for drugs and medicines. Belēvičs himself represents the pharmacology business as a former entrepreneur with specific visions for how the sector should be regulated.

Even after all ministers had expressed support for the amendments, Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma noted qualms about the preservation of unfettered competition in the medicines wholesale market and said she would append her cautious opinion to the legislative document. Last week the Cabinet postponed ruling on the matter after protracted discussions between Straujuma and Belevičs pushed the issue back onto coalition party agendas for further vetting.

Critics of the plan to ease the flow of parallel imports into the national market for medicines cite the fact that Belēvičs’ son is a co-owner of a pharmacy franchise Saules aptieka, which stands to benefit from the lobbying effort on its behalf.

On May 20 the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) launched a probe into possible conflicts of interest in the Health Minister’s activities. Belēvičs has personally initiated disciplinary proceedings against the director of the State Agency of Medicines for not observing confidentiality rules regarding medicine market statistics toward merchants in the sector. The move was prompted by an official complaint lodged by medication wholesaler Saules aptieka.

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