Cooperative pharmacies: ensuring the quality access to medicines

The Office des Pharmacies Coopératives de Belgique, OPHACO, is the recognised professional association federating 616 cooperative pharmacies in Belgium, distributed into 15 cooperatives. OPHACO’s cooperative pharmacies represent the 20% of the non-hospital pharmaceutical market in Belgium and the 12% of country’s pharmacies.

As a representative professional organisation, OPHACO is present, at the institutional level, on the boards and technical committees dealing with public health, economy, employment and social affairs.

OPHACO’s mission consists in providing pharmaceutical care at the highest quality, efficiency and safety, as well allow patients’ access to medicines at the fairest cost.

The first cooperative pharmacies appeared in Belgium in the 1880s, called «Pharmacies Populaires de Bruxelles». Along the XX century, different models were developed, being the differences, basically, if their origins were the unions, the mutual aid societies or another kind of organisations. In 1946 OPHACO was set up with the aim of bringing together the various organisations of cooperative pharmacies in Belgium, a process that lasted until 1962.

Nowadays, OPHACO’s cooperative pharmacies generate an annual turnover of about 600 million euros and meet the needs for medicines, medical devices, specialised nutrition and other health products of 2.2 million people. Regarding employment, they directly or indirectly provide a job to 3,500 people, including 1,000 pharmacists.