A decision by the Council of State has opened the door to extending pharmacy opening hours, a change that has been vehemently opposed by professionals in the sector.
According to a ruling on Wednesday, pharmacy owners will be able to operate their businesses on Saturday mornings as well as Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Pharmacists who wish to work beyond the fixed weekly schedule will have to notify their respective pharmaceutical associations and regional authorities, the ruling said.
Pharmacists had claimed that expanding opening hours would cause “irreparable damage” by creating confusion among store owners as well as customers. They also argued that the move would undermine free competition in the retail distribution of medicines and medical goods, affecting revenues.
Pharmacists have said in the past that the measure is unconstitutional and incompatible with EU legislation.
The Council of State rejected the allegations -- brought forward by the pharmaceutical associations of Attica, Corinth and Livadia -- as being too vague.
Pharmacists are among 140 or so “closed professions” that Greece’s foreign lenders -- the European Union and the International Monetary Fund -- have wanted to see liberalized in exchange for bailout help.
In a controversial ruling, the same court earlier this month reversed a decision by the ministers of health and regional development to end the monopoly of pharmacies on the sale of first-stage baby milk by making it available, at lower prices, in super markets.
The Panhellenic Union of Pharmacists had objected to the move on the grounds that pharmacists are more qualified to explain mixing procedures to parents than untrained supermarket employees, even though detailed instructions are included on the package.
Critics point out that Greek parents are forced to buy baby milk at more than double the price than their British counterparts do.