The European Court of Justice rules on the supply quotas for pharmaceuticals in the Greek wholesale market

The ECJ gave a preliminary ruling based on national proceedings between the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and Greek wholesalers exporting pharmaceutical products to countries where prices for medicines are higher, following referral from the Athens Court of Appeal (Joined Cases C-468/06 to C-478/06 Sot. Lelos & Sia E.E). The ECJ ruled that a dominant company’s refusal to supply wholesalers with a view to impeding parallel trade constitutes an abuse of a dominant market position under Article 82 of the EC Treaty unless it provides objective justifications. While differences in national price regulations and Member States’ control over pharmaceutical prices are in themselves not sufficient justifications, the court found that a producer of pharmaceutical products must be in a position to protect its own commercial interests if it is confronted with orders that are out of the ordinary in terms of quantity. Whether such orders are out of the ordinary is an issue for national courts to decide, taking into account the needs of the particular national market and previous trading relations between the parties.