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​​Online sales of prescription drugs: Will it be allowed?​

​​Online sales of prescription drugs: Will it be allowed?​

​We can buy almost everything online. However, we still have to pick up our prescription drugs in person at the pharmacy. Does such a restriction make sense in the digital age?​ 

​​The Office for the Protection of Competition (the “Office”) is clear on this – it does not. As the Office expressly stated in its 2023 Sector Inquiry Report on the Distribution of Medicinal Products[1], “[t]he inability to purchase prescription drugs online, or to have them delivered through delivery services, reduces consumer comfort and welfare.”  

​The Office therefore recommends that patients should be able to “purchase prescription medicines online without having to pick them up from a brick-and-mortar pharmacy (for those medicinal products where their nature as well as storage and transport requirements allow this)”. 

​Indeed, the Office goes even further in its recommendations. It also advocates that online pharmacies should no longer be obliged to operate a brick-and-mortar pharmacy, as current legislation requires. The Office considers this obligation to be an unjustified barrier to entry into the retail pharmaceutical market, which prevents greater competition.  

​Referring to the positive experience in the Nordic countries, the Office notes that “[o]nline pharmacies can increase competition in this sector and improve the availability of pharmacy services, for example in more remote areas where it may not be profitable to maintain a bricks-and-mortar pharmacy”. 

​There is no doubt that the general public would welcome the possibility of online dispensing of prescription drugs. Many of us would certainly like to do without having to go to the pharmacy, especially immobile or seriously ill patients. The possibility of distance selling could also significantly increase the availability of medicinal products in remote areas where it is not profitable to operate a brick-and-mortar pharmacy and people have to travel to the nearest town for their medicines. 

​Like other innovations in the Czech health care system, this modernisation step has long been a subject of debate and sceptical views. The proposal to introduce online dispensing of medicinal products was discussed by the Chamber of Deputies in 2019, but was not approved then.  

​The Ministry of Health is now considering this measure again and is organising a discussion meetings on the subject. However, no specific legislative proposal is known to have been tabled. Let us hope that online dispensing of prescription drugs will eventually be made possible and that the Czech health care system will move one step further in its modernisation.​

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