Italian pharmacies

Italian pharmacies

I’m in northern Italy on business this week. Nice place. Have eaten some great meals with nice views of Verona one night and Garda Lake the next. Going to Carmen tonight at the Arena, which should be fun.

I asked my host about pharmacy practices here. Fairly different from the US from what he tells me. Until this month, pharmacies had a monopoly on sales of OTC products, like aspirin. Prices were high and access limited. After a big fight, supermarkets will be allowed to sell these products but only if they have a pharmacist on duty. Once pharmacies realized they were going to lose their monopoly, they decided to oppose the requirement of having a pharmacist at the supermarket, figuring the next step would be to let the supermarkets sell Rxs. The government assured the pharmacies that supermarkets well never be allowed to do that, but it’s a promise made to be broken.

Meanwhile margins are so high on OTCs that supermarkets can easily justify the cost of hiring a do-nothing pharmacist.

August 10, 2006

2 thoughts on “Italian pharmacies”

  1. Life is even more beautiful than you think.

    Retail and wholesale margins are set by government agency (Agenzia Nazionale del Farmaco) as a fixed mark-up on manufacturer ex-factory prices. On average, pharmacists get about 24% of every pharmacy Euro spent versus only 10% in the U.S. Sweet!

    That said, I heard that pharmacy chains are allowed in Italy (while still prohibited in Germany, France, and Spain). Is that true? What’s the market position of chains vs. independents in Italy?

    In any case, I’m jealous as I am stuck in humid Philadelphia this August!


  2. I’ve been told, but have not verified, that chains are allowed here. However they are fairly small. The number of pharmacies seems to be restricted based on population in an area so that in practice the market is closed to new entrants. Certain local communities apparently own some pharmacies, and pharmacies in rural areas may even receive some subsidies.

    When the pharmacists closed their shops to protest the OTC-in-supermarket threat the community-owned pharmacies remained open and rang up big sales.

    Unlike in the US, where pharmacists are highly trusted, it doesn’t seem to be a trusted or respected profession here.

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