New law: Pharmacies may stay open until 9 p.m. in the future

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The approximately 1,400 pharmacies in Austria will be allowed to stay open longer starting in January 2024 and be allowed to offer additional services. This is provided for in the amendment to the Pharmacy Act, which was sent for review by the Ministry of Health on Friday. It is to come into force at the beginning of 2024. It is the first adjustment to the legal framework since 1984.

Probably the most important innovation is the significant expansion of the permitted opening hours, which will be adapted to those in the retail sector. The permissible total opening hours will be raised from 48 to a maximum of 72 hours per week. Pharmacies can now open between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays and between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays. This will significantly expand the supply of medicines, particularly at off-peak times and on weekends.

Furthermore, pharmacists will be allowed to offer various health tests in pharmacies. For example, blood pressure or blood sugar measurements and analyses of urine samples and other endogenous substances are to be carried out. According to the ministry’s statement, it will also be made clear that pharmacists are also allowed to carry out medication analyses for patients. This is intended to highlight possible drug interactions. At the same time, it said this offer will relieve the burden on the general practice sector.
The expansion of competencies, according to Health Minister Johannes Rauch, “is a logical step and a great benefit for care close to home, especially in rural areas.”

Three branch pharmacies could open in the future.
In the future, pharmacists will also be able to operate dispensaries with a limited range of products and opening hours if there are localities in their service area without their own pharmacy or a doctor’s family pharmacy. The number of branch pharmacies will also be expanded from one to a maximum of three. “These measures will make it easier to provide comprehensive care to the population, even in rural areas,” the ministry’s statement said.

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