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PR(01)03: EFTA Surveillance Authority does not object to an agreement between pharmaceutical wholesalers and pharmacies in Norway


The EFTA Surveillance Authority has adopted a preliminary position not to raise objections to a number of agreements concerning the wholesale and retail markets for pharmaceuticals and health care products in Norway. 

In March 2000, the pharmaceutical wholesalers Norsk Medisinaldepot ASA (NMD) and Holtung AS complained to the Authority about agreements concluded between Apokjeden AS, the leading association of pharmacy retailers in Norway, and Tamro Distribution AS, the third Norwegian pharmaceutical wholesaler, and its Finnish parent company Tamro Oyj. The complainants alleged that the co-operation between Apokjeden and Tamro Distribution infringed the competition rules of the EEA Agreement. 

In July 2000, Apokjeden and Tamro Distribution notified the agreements concerned to the Authority. They also lodged a complaint against NMD alleging that agreements NMD had concluded with Norwegian pharmacies were contrary to the EEA competition rules.

Since the complaints were lodged, the markets concerned have been subject to considerable changes as the market players have positioned themselves for the new regulatory environment introduced by the new Norwegian Pharmacy Act, which entered into force 1 March 2001. This has led to a closer co-operation, and to some extent integration, between the market players at the wholesale and retail level. The number of pharmacies linked to Apokjeden has been reduced considerably and new market players have entered the retail market. NMD, which previously held a very strong position in the wholesale market is now faced with more effective competition than earlier. NMD has on the other hand entered the retail market.

The agreements NMD and Apokjeden/Tamro have concluded separately with pharmacies contain similar purchasing obligations on the part of the pharmacy. The Authority was initially concerned that these agreements could have anti-competitive effects in the wholesale market. However, the Authority has taken the preliminary view that conditions for exemption appear to be fulfilled to the extent the agreements fall under the prohibition of anti-competitive behaviour in the EEA Agreement. In this regard the Authority has taken account of the positive effects brought about by the agreements in question and the dynamic market developments described above. Furthermore, NMD has undertaken to make certain amendments to its agreements.

The position adopted by the Authority is provisional pending any additional comments the complainants might wish to make.

For further information please contact Ms. Monica Wroldsen (+32) 2 286 18 59 or Mr. Tormod S Johansen, telephone (+32) 2 286 18 41.


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