Court upholds law; pharmacies cannot own wholesalers


The law ordering pharmacies to sell their wholesalers as part of a health reform making them equal with the pharmacies which do not have wholesalers was passed in December 2016.

Since neither Lekarna Ljubljana nor Mariborske Lekarne have sold their wholesalers, LL Grosist and Farmadent, respectively, the deadline to do so has been extended twice, the last time in November 2019, until the end of 2021.

But even before that, Lekarna Ljubljana challenged the law at the court, which now upheld the ban on vertical integration and on advertising pharmaceutical products.

Lekarna Ljubljana believes the ban is in breach of the right to free business initiative and puts it in an unequal position compared to other public sector organisations.

In Slovenia, pharmacies are organised as a public service and regionally, meaning they cannot expand their services outside their designated area.

But the court ruled that a company set up for non-business purposes can engage in business but cannot claim its right to free business initiative being violated when the legislation does not allow it to engage in certain business.

The court also pointed out the 2016 legislation was meant to protect patients and avoid a possible conflict of interest if a pharmacy owned or controlled a wholesaler.

As for advertising, the court argued relaxing it could led to an excessive use of products sold at chemists.

Meanwhile, the court decided not to process Lekarna Ljubljana's another petition – to scrutinise a provision banning pharmacies to set up pharmacies outside their designated area of business.

A few years ago, Lekarna Ljubljana was prevented from opening a pharmacy in Postojna, which falls under the jurisdiction of Kraške Lekarne, another regional chain.

At the moment, its Postojna facility sells only non-pharmaceutical products such as food supplements, cosmetics and teas.

The court announced its decisions on Tuesday, but adopted them already in mid-December.