Insights & news

Belgian Competition Authority Fines Professional Organisation of Pharmacists

  • 05/06/2019
  • Articles

The Belgian Competition Authority (“BCA”) announced today that it has imposed a fine of EUR 1 million on the professional organisation of pharmacists known as “Orde der Apothekers”/”Ordre des pharmaciens” (the “PO”) (see attached press release in three language versions). The PO is tasked by law with organising the profession of pharmacist and maintaining the ethical standards of that profession. Pharmacists are also subject to a number of public service obligations.
The PO was found to have misused these significant responsibilities for the commercial gain of its members. According to the BCA, the PO took a range of exclusionary measures to thwart the development of MediCare-Market, a successful new retailer that combines the sale of medicines with that of other, less regulated health products, wellness products, cosmetics, nutrition products and the like (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences Newsflashes of 9 November 2018 and 20 June 2017). The BCA took issue with the PO’s decision to start disciplinary procedures and court action and seek the help of public authorities to stop MediCare-Market. It also challenged the PO’s publication of threatening messages aimed at MediCare-Market. The BCA stressed that while some of these steps, such as taking court action, are normally legitimate, in this case they formed part of an overarching anticompetitive strategy.
In harsh words, the BCA labelled the PO’s decisions a competitive restriction by object in breach of Article IV.1, Code of Economic Law and Article 101, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It specified that the decisions of the PO had “harmed greatly consumer welfare” by reducing price competition for medicines and by limiting innovation. The BCA’s observations on medicine pricing are remarkable given the tight regulation of prices for medicines, including over-the–counter medicines, in Belgium.

Key contacts

Related practice areas

Related insights

Sign up for updates
    • 04/06/2020
    • Articles

    Europe - Four-Country Inclusive Vaccine Alliance In Quest for Covid-19 Vaccine

    In a letter to Parliament and a press release (see, attachments), the Dutch Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports, Hugo de Jonge, revealed on 3 June 2020 an initiative of Italy, France, Germany and The Netherlands to work together to secure a Covid-19 vaccine for “the European Union and other countries”.   According to the Minister, the “Inclusive Vaccine Alliance” (IVA) is in talks with several pharmaceutical companies regarding promising ventures and in the process hopes to establish a European manufacturing base for the vaccine. The IVA’s ultimate goal is to create a medicine that is “accessible, available and affordable”.   Other countries will be given the opportunity to join the IVA which is also in contact with the European Commission.

    Read more
    • 03/06/2020
    • Articles

    European Commission Publishes Roadmap Towards Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe

    The European Commission (the Commission) published on 2 June 2020 its roadmap towards a Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe (PSE) which it plans to publish in the fourth quarter of 2020 (see, attachment). The roadmap defines the steps which the Commission will take prior to adopting the PSE and the data which it will assemble to inform its PSE. While the Commission will consult a range of stakeholders, it has already announced a public consultation which will run until 7 July 2020.

    Read more
    • 02/06/2020
    • Articles

    Italian Competition Authority Approves Scheme for Distribution of Surgical Masks

    On 1 June 2020, the Italian competition authority (“L’Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato”) authorised a scheme that would allow disposable surgical masks to be distributed and sold in pharmacies and health product retail outlets (see, attached press release). It did so at the request of the two principal Italian associations of pharmaceutical wholesalers. Under the scheme, the wholesalers and associations of pharmacists and health product retailers acquire the masks in a joint procurement procedure. The masks are then allocated among the wholesalers at a uniform price per unit that was agreed upon with the suppliers. The scheme will last until 30 June 2020. The competition authority approved the scheme because it solves an urgent and wide-ranging health problem and is limited in time. It thus applied for the first time the principles of its guidance of 22 April 2020 regarding cooperation agreements designed to ensure the distribution of scarce essential goods and services, including health products and food. The competition authority’s approach is in line with the views expressed by the European Commission and competition authorities around Europe to address the problems resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic (see e.g., Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences News Alert of 9 April 2020 and of 26 May 2020). Not coincidentally, the competition authority indicates that it obtained counsel from the European Commission.

    Read more

Subscribe to our updates

Please select the practice areas you are interested in: *