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On-going debate on new French Bill regarding online sale of medicines

02 April 2020

On 5 February 2020, the French government introduced a wide-ranging Bill to the Senate, entitled “the acceleration and simplification of public action”, which deals with a variety of matters, including new provisions on e-commerce for medicinal products (Article 34).

Currently, the online sale of medicines is highly regulated in France: only medicinal products that can be delivered without medical prescription can be sold online. The online platform must be certified by Regional Health Authorities. The medicinal products sold must come from the stock located in brick-and-mortar pharmacies (see our earlier blog post, French Supreme Court confirms monopoly of pharmacists for online sale of medicines).

The original version of the text introduced the possibility for pharmacies to create online sale platforms and to handle the e-commerce activity (that is, to stock medicines necessary for online sales) either from within the pharmacy premises or premises outside the pharmacy but connected to it. Another provision allowed for the creation of an online platform common to two or more pharmacies.

The Bill attracted criticism from stakeholders and most notably from pharmacists’ unions who feared such provisions could be a first step toward the opening of the medicine sale market to online retailers and marketplaces. Consequently, the text was later amended by a joint commission (composed of Senators and members of the National Assembly), which removed provisions on shared online platforms and on the possibility to store stock outside the pharmacy premises for online sales.

In its latest version, the text still offers some degree of increased flexibility for the online sale of medicinal products: for instance, online platforms would no longer have to be certified by the Regional Health Authorities; a prior declaration would suffice.

The Bill has now gone to the National Assembly, to be debated in the coming weeks.

This article was co-authored by Alexandra Lauré.

A prior version of this post was originally published by the same authors in Practical Law – Life Sciences, April 2020 Issue (Thomson Reuters).

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