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A bitter pill

Has the European Court of Justice gone too far in upholding that pharmacies could only be owned by professionally qualified chemists, asks Paul Stanley

2 June 2009

Occasionally the European Court of Justice delivers a judgment that takes one by surprise. So it is with two related decisions delivered by the Grand Chamber on 19 May 2009 in Joined Cases C-171/07 and C-172/07 Apotherkammer des Saarlandes and Case C-531/06 Commission v Italy. Both cases had essentially the same subject-matter: the extent to which the right of freedom of establishment affects a member state’s power to restrict the owning and operation of pharmacies to natural persons.

The case of Apotherkammer des Saarlandes is unusual, in that authorities in the member state were contending its national law was invalid. German law restricted the operation of pharmacies to natural persons with pharmacy licences, who could own and operate up to four pharmacies. A Dutch company sought and obtained a licence; but the local association of pharmacists contended it was ineligible. The Dutch company and the ministry granting the licence argued that the re...

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