Pharmacists in the Irish Republic are threatening industrial action in a bid to prevent supermarkets muscling in on their market. Regulations restricting entry into the sector were scrapped two months ago by health minister Michael Martin, opening the way for multiples like Tesco to move into the business, as they have in Britain. Since then, the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU), representing some 1,500 pharmacists across the Republic, has been campaigning against the change, organising a petition signed by more than 300,000 customers in support of its case. Now members have voted by a 3-1 majority in favour of industrial action, which would include withdrawal from all state contracts and drug prescription schemes, as well as the closure of pharmacies. But the threat has brought a sharp warning from the Irish Competition Authority that pharmacists would face prosecution if they took "collective action aimed at frustrating deregulation of the market". {{NEWS }}