The European Court of Justice judged in favour of the German Dutch cooperation. It says that the law about price fixing for prescription drugs violates European law. The grounds: price fixing impedes other EU countries the access to the German market. They call it an unjustified limitation of free movement of goods. It could be justified, if life or wellbeing of people would otherwise be threatened, but they are not.
In Germany, every single prescription drug costs the same in every pharmacy due to price fixing. Depending on the way how the company wants to access the market, the pharma company can set the price for which they want to sell it on the market (pharmacies and wholesalers). For these drugs, there are always 3% margin on top for the seller. Additionally, pharmacies can charge EUR 8,10 per package.
Like this, the ministry of health wants to make sure that drugs can’t become too expensive and keep health insurance contributions constant. Also, patients should not have to compare prices when sick and in need of medication. Beyond that, all pharmacies should get the same competitive conditions and Germany wants to ensure that there are enough pharmacies nationwide. Considering the development of online pharmacies, this thought is especially important for local pharmacies, who cannot compete with cheaper prices from online shops.
Consequences of the ruling?
So far, one cannot say if this verdict will have consequences for the German consumer. We will have to wait until it is reviewed by the officials. One solution the German union of pharmacist associations proposed is a ban on mail-order prescription drugs, as it would be compliant with European law. So, to be continued…
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