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French Supreme Court confirms monopoly of pharmacists for online sale of medicines

In its judgment on 19 June 2019, the Commercial Division of the French Supreme Court held that the online platform Doctipharma acted illegally by referencing the websites of French pharmacies and acting as an intermediary between them and patients.

Doctipharma is the editor of the website, hosted by Pictime. Its activity consists of referencing authorised French pharmacies websites, whereby internet users can buy health products and over-the-counter medicines. However, Doctipharma itself is not directly owned and operated by qualified pharmacists.

Consequently, the association of pharmacists (the UDGPO) brought an action against Doctipharma and Pictime accusing it of illegally selling medicines online.

The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Versailles which gave right to the defendant by ruling that Doctipharma is an online platform which only references the authorised websites of French pharmacies and does not sell the medicines directly to the public, but merely acts as an intermediary in doing so (see our earlier blog post,  French court confirms that pharmacists can sell non-prescription medicinal products on Doctipharma e-platform). The Supreme Court ruled that the Court of Appeal had violated applicable provisions of the Public Health Code which prohibits pharmacists from receiving orders from non-qualified intermediaries, thereby taking a strict stance and affirming the pharmacist monopoly as to online sales of medicines.

The Supreme Court thereby takes a different stance to the French Competition Authority which, in its report published earlier this year, had argued for the liberalisation of such online sales.

This article was co-authored by Rada Petrovic.

A prior version of this post was originally published by the same authors in Practical Law – Life Sciences, July 2019 Issue (Thomson Reuters).

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