On 20 February 2015, the Italian Government completed the final draft of the Competition bill (disegno di legge Concorrenza) which will now be submitted to the Parliament for approval.

With respect to healthcare sector, the bill includes important provisions significantly affecting the pharmaceutical distribution. The most relevant provision refers to the extension of the ability to open a pharmacy - currently limited to natural persons and partnerships (società di persone) - to corporations (società di capitali).

The bill also provides for the elimination of the law limiting ownership interest in a legal entity holding a pharmacy license to persons holding a degree in pharmacy. Other legal entities and persons may now have an ownership interest, although the direction of the pharmacy must still be entrusted to a pharmacist.

Another critical provision included in the bill repeals the rule according to which the above legal entities may not own more than four pharmacies located in the same district where the entity has its registered office.

If approved by the Parliament, the above provisions would open up the Italian market to major multinationals which would then be allowed to create distribution chains for medicinal products as has already happened in other EU Countries.

It is noteworthy that, after a long debate with the relevant operators, the Government ended up deciding not to include in the final draft of the Competition bill either the provision extending to para-pharmacies the ability to sell Class C medicines (i.e., those not reimbursed by the National Health System) or that providing for an increase in the number of pharmacies by transforming their maximum number (currently one per every 3,300 inhabitants) into a minimum number.