Audit finds public pharmacies in breach of procurement law

Ljubljana – The Court of Audit has examined drug procurement practices in three public pharmacy chains to find that medicine procurement in the country is still in disarray and public pharmacies keep flouting public procurement rules.

The court issued an adverse opinion to Pomurske Lekarne, Lekarna Velenje and Lekarna Sevnica after examining their drug purchasing practices in 2020.

In an announcement on Monday the court notes that public pharmacies in 2017 authorised the Slovenian Pharmacy Chamber to bulk buy medicines through a public call, which has then been annulled twice by the National Review Commission, most recently two months ago.

The court notes that despite joining an occasional joint procurement, public pharmacies still have the obligation to purchase pharmaceutical products in compliance with the public procurement act.

Suppliers of the three pharmacies under scrutiny had not been selected based on the prescribed procurement procedure even though they should have been considering the total value of the purchases.

The pharmacies ordered most drugs from the three largest suppliers based on contracts signed directly with them from 2014 to 2020 for an indefinite period of time.

The pharmacies argued that implementation of the mandated procurement procedures could cause disruption in the market and the supply of the population with medicines, but the court said they failed to explain how or provide documents with concrete arguments from the Pharmacy Chamber.

The court said data obtained during the audit suggested the relevant institutions had not yet analysed and assessed such risks at the systemic level.

“If analysis shows there is in fact a realistic risk of disruption in the medicines market and supply when medicines are purchased based on prescribed public procurement procedures, the Health Ministry would have to take immediate action jointly with the Public Administration Ministry to find a systemic solution” that will not cause such disruption and will comply with EU rules, the court said.

The court demanded the three pharmacies under review to report back on the remedy measures they plan to take.

The Pharmacy Chamber and pharmacies have been complaining about the regulatory framework for the procurement of medicines for a while and the chamber described the annulment of the bulk buy procedure in early October as “unacceptable and illogical”.