Brussels, 27 November 2008
The European Commission has decided to formally request Italy to amend its legislation banning pharmacists from having more than one pharmacy and restricting the maximum number of pharmacies that may be owned by groups of pharmacists to four. In addition the four pharmacies must be located in the same province. According to the Commission, such constraints are in breach of Article 43 of the EC Treaty on freedom of establishment. The Commission’s request is in the form of a ‘reasoned opinion’, the second stage of the infringement proceedings provided for in Article 226 of the EC Treaty. If no satisfactory reply is received within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice.
The Commission has decided to officially request Italy to review its rules on authorising the establishment of pharmacies. Italian legislation bans individual pharmacists from holding more than one authorisation to open a pharmacy, and from holding an authorisation to open a pharmacy and at the same time be involved in the management of a group of pharmacists. It also restricts the number of pharmacies that may be operated by one and the same group to four, and requires those pharmacies to be located in the same province as that in which the group has its registered place of business.
The Commission takes the view that, by adopting and maintaining the above restrictions, Italy has failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 43 of the EC Treaty, since such restrictions are likely to prevent the establishment of pharmacies by operators from other Member States or make it more difficult for them. The restrictions cannot be considered compatible with the EC Treaty unless they are justified by public-interest objectives and are necessary and proportionate to achieve those objectives. However, the Commission considers that these restrictions go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objective of protecting health cited by the Italian authorities.
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