French Competition Authority delivers its opinion on consumer supply of medicines
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On 4 April 2019, the French Competition Authority delivered its opinion on the distribution of medicines to consumers, following several months of investigation and an extensive public consultation.
According to the Authority, the consumer supply of medicines sector is particularly important to the French economy and is evolving rapidly and significantly. This evolution is due to the development of telemedicine, which is driven by digital technologies, and artificial intelligence, as well as the determination to create new opportunities for pharmacists.
The Authority notes that the legislative and regulatory framework that currently applies to the commercial supply of medicines is excessively restrictive, especially with respect to permissible communication methods, which has led to the underdevelopment of online sales of medicines in France. To compete with its European neighbours, the Authority therefore calls for a review of the regulations with a view to providing a more favourable framework. It also recommends facilitation of online promotions and grouping of online offers and resources (for example, through a single website). The Authority considers that the legitimate protection of public health does not always justify the extensive constraints implemented in France (for example, the obligation to have a nearby storage room for medicines).
Another issue that has been highlighted by the Authority is the need for less stringent ownership rules for pharmacies. The Authority recommends diversifying the ways in which pharmacies may be financed (for example, by opening up to outside investors).
Finally, the Authority also proposes that, while maintaining the monopoly of pharmacies to supply medicines to consumers, a limited but greater diversification of the distribution modes of some over-the-counter medicines outside pharmacies could be implemented. This would have the effect of improving patient access to the relevant products and providing, to the extent possible, a greater degree of competition for prices.
This article was co-authored by Thanutshika Jeyarajah.
A prior version of this post was originally published by the same authors in Practical Law - Life Sciences, April 2019 Issue (Thomson Reuters).