Sterile materials, cold sprays and hot ointments to be available in supermarkets

Pharmacists are to lose their monopoly on the sale of a number of products such as sterile bandages and compresses. The announcement that these and other medical products currently only available at pharmacies will soon be on sale elsewhere was made by the Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block (Flemish liberal) on Monday morning. 

Cold sprays such as Reflex Spray and hot ointments such as Voltaren will also be allowed to be sold by other outlets than pharmacists from 7 February. Shops and supermarkets wishing to sell the above-listed products will first have to register with the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAGG). “They will have to comply with the same strict criteria on quality, safety and traceability as pharmacists”, Ms De Block told journalists.  

Those that are prescribed such products by their GP can still best buy them at a pharmacy as there they will be reimbursed in part for their purchase by their health mutual, while this will not be the case if they purchase them elsewhere.

The Health Minister believes that the current situation whereby pharmacists have a monopoly on the sale of the products stifles competition and keeps prices artificially high.  

"The example of other countries shows that prices fall considerably if you make these products available at outlets other than pharmacies”, Ms De Block said.  

"Simply products such as sterile bandages will soon be more readily available and will become cheaper. If an expert opinion is required, people will still go to their pharmacist”, The Health Minister concludes.