As Minister for Health and Children, my responsibilities centre on the provisions of a high quality health service and this includes ensuring, in so far as possible, that adequate and accessible pharmacy services are generally available.
The retail pharmacy sector has not been deregulated. It is subject to a wide range of legislative controls. The opening and operation of retail pharmacies in Ireland is governed by the Pharmacy Acts 1875-1977, subject to restrictions imposed by non-pharmacy legislation such as the Planning Act. Any individual or company may open a pharmacy providing that the shop and the dispensing and compounding of medical prescriptions are personally supervised by a full-time pharmacist who is not acting elsewhere in a similar capacity. This has been the position since 1890.
The issue of pharmacy regulation was examined by the Pharmacy Review Group. I established the Pharmacy Review Group in November 2001 to examine the pharmacy issues raised in the OECD report on regulatory reform in Ireland. The group submitted its report on 31 January 2003. I have been examining the complex legal and other issues surrounding the group's recommendations. Deputies will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the report's recommendations before completion of this examination. I have published the Pharmacy Review Group report on the Department's website,www.doh.ie.