Portugal’s hypermarkets begin selling medicine

A PRICE war between hypermarkets and pharmacies looks likely, after a major hypermarket began selling non-prescription medicines at discount prices this week. The move follows the introduction of new legislation by the present government that will put an end to the previous monopoly enjoyed by the country’s pharmacies.

Until now, contrary to the system operated in the UK and many other countries, where over the counter medicines can be bought in supermarkets, petrol stations and so on, simple items such as paracetamol and cough mixture were only available from chemists in Portugal.

Margarida Gil, the pharmacist responsible for sales in the Continente hypermarket in Loures (just outside Lisbon), said that medicines and health products would have markdowns of “between five and 10 per cent”.

The free sale of certain medicines was one of the first measures announced by the incoming Socialist government, a decision that sparked a war of words with the National Association of Pharmacies who have declined to comment on this latest development.

Luís Dias, managing director of Continente, said that the prices on offer were “competitive”. He said he was not expecting a stampede to buy the medicines, but promised that the sale of such products in supermarkets would be hugely beneficial for consumers, heralding wider accessibility, extended opening hours and lower prices. But the store warned that medicines would only be sold to adults over 16 and that customers would be required to produce identification if their age was in doubt.

Gil also said that information would be made available to clients. “We are going to proceed ethically, explaining to customers about responsible consumption and the risks of self-medication,” she said.

More Continente stores to sell medicines soon

The health section of Loures Continente store will sell more than 300 medicines, as well as a thousand different skin care and health products. By the end of January another 16 Continente hypermarkets plan to begin selling cold and flu remedies, painkillers and other medicines allowed under the new law.