(CN) – Europe’s high court upheld restrictions on new pharmacies in the Asturias region, but scrapped a point system rewarding experience in the northern coastal province of Spain, saying it discriminates against foreign pharmacists.
The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice examined the cases of two Spanish pharmacists who challenged Asturian legislation restricting the establishment of new pharmacies on the basis of population density and proximity.
The Asturian rules bar new pharmacies in areas where 2,800 inhabitants already have access to an existing pharmacy. They also require at least 250 meters between any two pharmacies.
Although these conditions constitute a restriction on the freedom of establishment, the Court of Justice ruled, this is justified in the public interest, so long as the conditions are applied equally.
The rules reasonably fulfill their objective of ensuring even, reliable and high-quality prescription drug provision to the public, the court ruled.
Otherwise, pharmacies could concentrate in more desirable areas, at the detriment of less inviting regions.
The population density restriction is not entirely rational, the court ruled, because rural areas might still end up with too few pharmacies and urban areas with too many. But European Union nations can mitigate this disparity by tweaking the law, the court added.
The high court left it up to national courts to apply any adjustments.
The court also ordered Asturias to discard its system of awarding extra “points” for experience within the region, as it discriminates against pharmacists from other EU states.
The ruling essentially adopted Advocate General Miguel Poiares Maduro’s non-binding opinion from last September.