Italy Liberalizes the Ownership of Retail Pharmacies.

Starting from August 29, 2017, restrictions regarding owners of retail pharmacies will fall.

Previously, ownership of pharmacies was solely reserved to licensed pharmacists and entities owned by licensed pharmacists.  Thanks to a law decree of August 2, 2017, converted into law no. 124 of August 4, 2017, corporations may now own a retail pharmacy.

While a licensed pharmacist must be in charge of the management of the pharmacy, the law repeals the requirement that a pharmacist must be a shareholder of the pharmacy.  The market of retail pharma distribution will open up to corporate investments and may lead to the creation of corporate-owned retail pharmacy chains.

Ownership of a retail pharmacy will continue to remain subject to the following requirements:

  • Manufacturers of pharmaceutical products, scientific informers, and health professionals will not be able to own a pharmacy, since the relating incompatibility provisions remain in force;
  • Each pharmacy owner (including corporate entities) will be allowed to, directly or indirectly, control no more than 20% of the pharmacies located within the same region or autonomous province.

The new law also sets forth that pharmacies may be open to the public beyond the current time limitation imposed by law, upon prior notice to the competent authorities and to customers.

While this field remains highly regulated (the retail distribution of medicines on the territory and the attribution of the relevant authorizations have remained untouched), the next months will show if investors intend to take advantage of this opportunity and if small owners of pharmacies will be able to create the networks that their association, FEDERFARMA, has been advocating.

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