Germany’s 20,000 pharmacies are used to being given the occasional health policy headache by the government in Berlin. But up to now they were always able to rely on one banker: fixed trading margins for prescription drugs.
These work in a similar way to fixed prices in book retailing, and have long been relied on by the pharmacy sector, which otherwise only has to worry about competition on non-prescription drugs and non-medicinal products.
But that could soon change. In September the European Court of Justice will announce its decision on whether the ban on discounts to protect the state-price guarantee is compatible with E.U. law, in so far as it affects foreign mail-order companies.
In the dock is the mail-order pharmacy Doc Morris. It is facing the case because it pays E.U. patients with Parkinson’s disease a bonus if they send their prescriptions to its base in the Netherlands instead of collecting them in a local pharmacy.