The son of a rural apothecary, Pedro Antonio Claros Vicario (Ceclavín, Cáceres, 1954) has chaired the Cáceres Official College of Pharmacists for the last 22 years. After passing the baton to the new board of directors, with Juan José Hernández Rincón at the helm, the time has come to go back behind the counter and regain contact with the patients, which he has never completely lost because he attended his establishment located in the R-66 one weekend per month. The pandemic has marked the last of his five terms. Father of three children, he leaves with the satisfaction of having softened relations with the administration and of having always had the support of his colleagues. “I really like the pharmaceutical policy and dedication to the profession,” he comments at the beginning of the talk.
–So he became a pharmacist by family tradition.
-My father was one of the two Ceclavín pharmacists of all life. And my great-uncles had a pharmacy in Alcántara, Zarza la Mayor, Ceclavín and Salamanca. My daughter is also a pharmacist. She comes from my family and it was the best decision I made.
– How have you seen the sector evolve in these 22 years?
-It has changed a lot. When I assumed the presidency of the college in February 2000, there were no powers in the field of Health in the Junta de Extremadura. Almost all of Spain, apart from the Catalans and Basques, was Insalud (National Institute of Health) territory. Everything was done in Madrid and negotiated there. Provincial schools were the transmission belt to pharmacy offices throughout the country. Two years after assuming the presidency, the powers were transferred to the autonomous communities and we began to work with the Junta de Extremadura. We had to learn both sides to negotiate with each other at the local level. We didn’t have much experience, but there was a lot of goodwill. And we started shooting.
“Pharmacies also notice crises; the consumption of vitamins and cosmetics falls»
–Do the crises also hit pharmacies?
Yes, of course it shows. There are a number of medications that are not financed by the State and that citizens buy out of their own pockets. Its sale is affected, its consumption falls. This is the case, for example, of all vitamins, anti-flu… And let’s not talk about parapharmacy, cosmetics and sunscreens. Pharmacies also notice crises.
–You have made reference to parapharmacy products. It has also experienced the emergence of this type of establishment. Do they represent direct competition for pharmacies?
-What is sold in parapharmacy can be sold in any supermarket. There are not three steps: the pharmacy, the parapharmacy and the supermarket or the perfumery. It is not like this. There are only two: medicines, which can only be sold and dispensed in pharmacies, and health and parapharmaceutical products that are over-the-counter, which can be sold by anyone who has an administrative retail license. When I started, most baby milk and baby food were dispensed in pharmacies and now most are sold in supermarkets. This market share, in quotes, we have lost a lot. I think that the parapharmacies had a ‘boom’, but then they have dropped quite a bit. In any case, they are not the main enemy of the pharmacy.
“We have gone from an atmosphere of confrontation with the Board to a climate of frank collaboration”
– Two years have passed since the declaration of the state of alarm and confinement due to the coronavirus. How have pharmacists experienced the pandemic?
– With a lot of stress. We are an essential establishment and we had a duty to dispense. We couldn’t close. As president, I had some problems with mayors who didn’t understand this. There were two, in particular, who asked me to close the pharmacies in their towns so that the inhabitants of the next town would not go for fear of contagion. We were one of the few places that remained open during the lockdown.
How were the first days behind the counter?
-We had nothing: no gloves, no masks, no gels… We had to put up the screens and we ordered the tapes from the school to a company to mark on the ground the distance that had to be kept in the queues. They were anguished days in which we had to endure fear with great courage. There was a mayor who ordered the seizure of the few masks that we had in pharmacies so as not to get infected. The police arrived and I had to talk to the sub-delegate of the Government and explain that they were for our defense.
– Do you like dealing directly with the public?
-Yes of course. Advice and information work is essential. It is a very familiar relationship. I sometimes say that the counter is a confessional. They tell you many things and, above all, older people who are alone. It happens mainly in rural areas. They come to hang out at the pharmacy to tell you their sorrows.
What are you most proud of after passing through the school?
–The change of attitude between the profession and the Junta de Extremadura, the improvement of relations. When I assumed the presidency they were very tense. We went from an atmosphere of confrontation to a climate of frank collaboration.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.