Belgian independent pharmacies increasingly replaced by chains

Belgian independent pharmacies increasingly replaced by chains

In the first quarter of 2019, twice as many pharmacies were closed as opened, which is a consequence of competition from online outlets and chain pharmacies.

In 2018, there were 165 new pharmacies in Belgium, compared to 190 closings and 12 bankruptcies, according to credit counselling service Graydon Belgium. The first quarter of 2019 shows the same trend: 30 starters compared to 64 closings and 4 bankruptcies.

There are still 4,831 pharmacies in Belgium, but that is mostly due to chains taking over independent pharmacies. Many pharmacists are not happy with this evolution. "For these chains, it is not about health, it is only about sales," said Lieven Zwaenepoel from pharmacists association APB to Het Nieuwsblad. "In chain pharmacies, some sort of supposed specialist walks between the shelves to recommend products. That is a dangerous evolution," he added.

Online pharmacies also impact independent pharmacists. "Some online providers are even recommending their products on TV," Zwaenepoel said. "It is not for nothing that pharmacists have to study for as long as they do," he added.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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