EC halted proceedings against Slovakia in re-export of medicaments

It basically acknowledged medicaments are not common goods, and new rules determining their trading should be found.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: Sme)

The European Commission halted legal proceedings against Slovakia, which introduced legal measures to stop the re-export of medicaments from the country to be sold more expensively abroad, the Pravda daily wrote on May 19.

The EC admitted that due to the potential re-exports, Slovak patients could be threatened by a lack of drugs, and thus admitted regulation in trading them. The Health Ministry opines that the EC thus acknowledged that medicaments are not common goods, according to Pravda.

It came to the conclusion that instead of the court trial concerning Slovakia’s failure to fulfil its obligations, it is necessary to seek other ways of handling this complex situation, the Sme daily wrote May 17. Since the international court proceedings have begun, Slovakia has already changed the criticised legislation.

In 2013, the country introduced the possibility of banning the re-export of medicaments abroad. Thus, the export was monitored, and in the case of a lack of a medicament, the State Institute for Drug Control (ŠÚKL) prevented the medicament from being exported. However, the EC disliked the legislation and it launched proceedings concerning the violation of legal norms concerning bans on the re-export of medicaments. In March 2015, the EC sent a reprimanding letter to Slovakia.

The EC’s stance

The amendment to the law on medicaments, which became effective as of January 1, 2017, abolished the criticised ban. Since then, only producers and holders of licenses – and not distribution companies – can export drugs financed from public health care.

The EC opines that the parallel import and export of drugs is among legal forms of trade on the unified EU market. In some cases, member states can limit them but the measures have to be justified, adequate and serving legitimate public interest.

The EU executive stresses that a lack of adequate and continuous supplies of medicaments for human use to pharmacies is a serious problem, which is ever more and more frequent and that has occurred in recent years in several EU members. It can gravely impact a patient's treatment, and one of the causes for the lack of several drugs for human use can be the parallel trading in medicaments, according to Sme.

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