Pharmaceutical wholesalers are not required to charge a minimum price for prescription medicines

On the admissibility of discounts and discounts in pharmaceutical wholesaling in the case of dispensing prescription medicines to pharmacies

Judgment of the 5. October 2017 - I ZR 172 / 16

The I. Civil Senate of the Federal Supreme Court, which is responsible for competition law, has today ruled that pharmaceutical wholesalers are not obliged to levy a minimum price when dispensing prescription medicines to pharmacies.

Facts:

The defendant is a pharmaceutical wholesaler distributing prescription drugs (so-called Rx articles). She advertised in an information leaflet and on her website by offering her pharmacy customers a discount of 70% plus 3% discount on the discounted price on all Rx items up to 2,5 € and a discount of 70% plus 2 from 2,5 € up to the high price limit % Discount on the discounted price.

The plaintiff, the center for combating unfair competition, sees this as a violation of the price regulations in § 78 of the Medicines Act (AMG) and § 2 of the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation (AMPreisV) in the since 1. January 2012 applicable version. It has claimed the defendant for injunctive relief and compensation for charges.

Previous process history:

The district court dismissed the claim. On the appeal of the plaintiff, the Higher Regional Court has ordered the defendant to pay. It has presumed that the provision of § 2 para. 1 sentence 1 AMPreisV prescribe a fixed supplement of at least 70 Cent to the pharmaceutical wholesale trade in the delivery of prescription medicines. This fixed surcharge should not be reduced by price reductions and must always be levied. The behavior of the defendant is not consistent with this.

Decision of the Federal Court of Justice:

Der Bundesgerichtshof hat auf die Revision der Beklagten das klagabweisende Urteil erster Instanz wiederhergestellt. Die Vorschrift des § 2 Abs. 1 Satz 1 AMPreisV legt für die Abgabe von verschreibungspflichtigen Arzneimitteln mit den dort vorgesehenen Großhandelszuschlägen eine Preisobergrenze, aber keine preisliche Untergrenze fest. Das ergibt sich sowohl aus dem Wortlaut der Vorschrift selbst (“darf … höchstens … erhoben werden”) als auch aus dem Vergleich mit dem abweichenden Wortlaut der Bestimmung zu Apothekenzuschlägen für Fertigarzneimittel in § 3 Abs. 2 Nr. 1 AMPreisV (“… ist zu erheben …”). Der Großhandel ist danach nicht verpflichtet, einen Mindestpreis zu beanspruchen, der der Summe aus dem Abgabepreis des pharmazeutischen Unternehmers, der Umsatzsteuer und einem Festzuschlag von 70 Cent entspricht. Er kann deshalb nicht nur auf den in § 2 Abs. 1 Satz 1 AMPreisV genannten preisabhängigen, bis zur Höchstgrenze von 3,15 Prozent veränderlichen Zuschlag, höchstens jedoch 37,80 Euro, sondern auch auf den darin erwähnten Festzuschlag von 70 Cent ganz oder teilweise verzichten.

lower courts:

LG Aschaffenburg - judgment of the 22. October 2015 - 1 HK O24 / 15, PharmR 2016, 56

OLG Bamberg - judgment of the 29. June 2016 - 3 U 216 / 15, WRP 2016, 1151

The relevant regulations are:

§ 78 AMG:

(1) 1The Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy is authorized to [...]

1.Price margins for medicinal products that are resold in wholesalers, pharmacies or veterinarians,

[...]

increase.

(2) [...] 2A uniform pharmacy sale price for medicinal products excluded from the non-pharmacy market must be ensured.

(3) For medicinal products referred to in paragraph 2, 2, for which prices and price ranges are determined by the Regulation under paragraph 1, pharmaceutical operators shall ensure a uniform selling price; [...]

§ 2 AMPreisV is:

(1) 1For dispensing of finished medicinal products intended for human use by wholesalers to pharmacies, [...] may not exceed the sales price of the pharmaceutical entrepreneur with a surcharge of 3,15 per cent, but not more than 37,80 Euro, plus a fixed surcharge of 70 cent as well as the sales tax are raised. [...]

§ 3 AMPreisV:

(1) 1When dispensing finished medicinal products intended for human use by pharmacies, a fixed premium of 3 percent plus 8,35 Euro plus 16 Cent to promote emergency services and VAT shall be charged for the calculation of the pharmacy sales price. [...]

(2) The fixed surcharge is to be levied

1.on the amount resulting from the aggregation of the sales price of the pharmaceutical entrepreneur, which does not include VAT, and the wholesale maximum charge according to § 2, which applies to the delivery of the wholesale trade,

[...]

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