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Pharmacies: Self-service ban continues

Pharmacies: Self-service ban continues

Higher Administrative Court: Pharmacy-only medicines and medicines will in future only be passed on to customers by pharmacy staff.

(08.09.2010) The North Rhine-Westphalian Higher Administrative Court (OVG) in Münster confirmed in a ruling that pharmacy-only medicinal products may only be passed on to customers by pharmacy staff in the future. Thus, the so-called self-service ban for OTC medicines was confirmed in the judgment of August 19, 2010. According to the judges, the ban does not violate the Federal German Constitution. This is not a contradiction in spite of the approval of the mail order trade in pharmaceuticals.

In a recent ruling, the Higher Administrative Court (OVG) in Münster confirmed the ban on self-service of OTC medicines, i.e. medicines that are subject to pharmacy. Despite the approval of the mail order trade in medicinal products, nothing has changed fundamentally in the ban. Such a ban does not contradict the German constitution and therefore continues to be justified. In the explanatory memorandum, the judges state that medication is a special type of goods, for which safety must be guaranteed at all levels. Numerous safety-relevant aspects must be considered from production to use. After all, according to the federal pharmacist regulations (§ 1), pharmacists are obliged to provide citizens with medicines and to educate and advise them about the ways in which medicines can be used and possible side effects. Pharmacists therefore play an important role in drug safety.

According to the judgment, the judges do not see the self-service ban as an unreasonable restriction on the freedom to practice the profession guaranteed by the constitution. Such restrictions serve the common good if they do not exceed the limits of what is reasonable. In this case, this applies because the self-service ban for OTC drugs serves the safety of customers and is well founded.

The court did not consider it to be justified that the approval of the mail order trade in medicinal products shows a departure from the legislator's self-service ban. Because, according to the OVG, citizens usually buy medicines they already know from a mail order company. Advice is less important than in a pharmacy. When customers go to a pharmacy, medicines are often purchased that are less known to the general public. According to this, advice from the pharmacist must be given. (sb)

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