In 2013, 1,153 employed pharmacists are working in the 600 pharmacies open to the public, owned by the 13 member companies of the Office des Pharmacies coopératives de Belgique (OPHACO), ( [1] – the Office of Co-operative Pharmacies in Belgium. Of these pharmacists, 600 are employed in the capacity of legal responsible qualified person and 500 are employed in the capacity of substitute of the legal responsible qualified person.

On average, there are 1.8 employed pharmacists for each pharmacy that is a member of OPHACO, 80% of employed pharmacists are women and the average age is 45.

The 600 co-operative pharmacies that are members of OPHACO account for 12% of the total number of pharmacies in Belgium. They dispense medicines and healthcare products to 22% of the Belgian population.  

A small number of employed pharmacists by OPHACO member Companies have been elected as members of the Provincial Councils of l’Ordre national des Pharmaciens de Belgique – the National Chamber of Belgian Pharmacists. In fact, the majority of owner pharmacists showed a preference for owner pharmacists and not for employed pharmacists.

A minimal level of representation – as in France in “Section D” – in a special chamber for employed pharmacists is claimed by OPHACO but is not yet effective within the National Chamber of Belgian Pharmacists.

Nevertheless, all regulatory and administrative provisions and Good Pharmacy Practices (GPP) applicable to pharmacists and pharmacies open to the public in, amongst others, the fields of public health, social affairs, the economy, employment, etc., conform in all details to those that apply to the profession as a whole. 

Thus OPHACO, on the basis of RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF STANDARDS FOR GOOD PRACTICE IN PHARMACYfrom the European Union of the Social Pharmacies (EUSP) [2], took on the role of driving force in the drawing up and implementation of the Principles and Guidelines for Good Pharmacy PRACTiCES, annexed to the Royal Decree of 21 January 2009 Concerning Instructions for Pharmacists.

And so, since 1 January 2012, Belgian pharmacists have relied in their working practices on procedures and protocols for the exercise of their profession, and thus come within a framework of ongoing assessment and improvement of pharmaceutical work.

Economic and social effectiveness of pharmaceutical care

The aim of co-operative pharmacies is to defend the public interest and the quality of service to the public (effectiveness of care, patient safety, accessibility of care). They desire to reinvest in patients in order to improve quality of life. These values are enriched by the European concepts of responsibility, solidarity and ethics. The basic credo of cooperative pharmacies is to search for and develop the qualitative, economic and social effectiveness of pharmaceutical care.

To this end, employed pharmacists are taking part in programmes to promote and raise awareness of health issues, as well as receiving continuous training and going on courses to update their knowledge.  

For co-operative pharmacies, keeping patients informed and pharmacists’ level of competence are considered just as essential as the dispensing of medicines.

[1] L’Office des Pharmacies coopératives de Belgique (OPHACO) ( – The Office of Co-operative Pharmacies in Belgium – is the recognised professional Association for companies whose purpose is to provide services, medicines and healthcare products accessible to patients, under the fairest conditions, within a network of 600 pharmacies open to the public.

[2] OPHACO is a member of the European Union of the Social Pharmacies (EUSP) ( whose members constitute organisations based on the same principles, values and aims. The purpose of this international organisation is to promote collaboration and understanding between its members, to allow the sharing of experience, and also to take action to raise awareness amongst European authorities of the social dimension of the European Union, more particularly with regard to health.

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