French Competition Authority Publishes Report on Distribution of Medicines and on Laboratory Testing
On 4 April 2019, the French competition authority published a voluminous sector report on the distribution of medicines and on laboratory testing (the “Report” - see attached). The Report is the result of an inquiry which started in November 2017 (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences Newsflash of 21 November 2017) and which was also the subject of public consultations in October 2018 (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences Newsflash of 18 0ctober 2018).
The Report contains a series of regulatory recommendations which the competition authority says will help pharmacists to become more competitive while continuing to observe their public service obligations in the interest of public health. The Report thus advocates the following measures:
- Loosening the rules governing online sales by (i) allowing pharmacies more leeway in having storage facilities further removed from the pharmacy; (ii) allowing pharmacists to pool their online activities by relying on a common website; and (iii) changing the financial thresholds for recruiting assistant pharmacists by no longer considering for that purpose sales of non-medicine products;
- Taking additional measures to stimulate take-off of relatively recent public service tasks such as involvement in vaccination campaigns; fostering patient treatment adherence; and the development of telemedicine services;
- Considering new public service tasks such as tracking non-communicable diseases or administering specific medicines under narrow conditions;
- Relaxing the advertising rules for cosmetics and other non-medicine products as well for the pharmacy business as such;
- Increasing the pharmacy’s access to capital;
- Allowing specific non-medicine products (such as in vitro diagnostic medical devices) to be sold outside pharmacies – it is unclear how this proposed measure will help pharmacies.
The Report also invites the government to reconsider the income of the wholesalers-distributors which live on small margins (often smaller than those of pharmacies that buy medicines directly from suppliers) while having to cope with public service obligations.