In two recent cases, Commission v Italy and Apothekerkammer des Saarlandes and Others, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that the Italian and German legislations’ providing that only pharmacists may own and operate a pharmacy, is justified by the objective of ensuring that the provision of medicinal products to the public is reliable and of good quality.

The ECJ held that this national legislation is justified even though it constitutes a restriction of the freedom of establishment and the free movement of capital. As a result, a Member State may consider, at its discretion, that the operation of a pharmacy by a non-pharmacist may represent a risk to public health.

The ECJ also stated that it has not been established that a measure less restrictive than the exclusion of non-pharmacists would make it possible to ensure the level of reliability and quality in the provision of medicinal products to the public as effectively as the application of that exclusion. Therefore, the national legislations at issue are appropriate for securing attainment of the objective of protection of public health and do not go beyond what is necessary for reaching that objective.