Limitations of Parallel Trade with Pharmaceuticals in the Practice of the European Commission, CJEU and the Bulgarian Commission for Protection of Competition


Eleonora Mateina[1]


The purpose of the article is to outline the key aspects of the limitations of parallel trade with pharmaceuticals and to review the most significant decisions of the CJEU dedicated to this topic, i.e. decisions under the joined cases C-2/01 P и C-3/01 (Bayer/Adalat); case C-277/87 (Sandoz); joined cases C 501/06 P, C-513/06 P, C-515/06 P и C 519/06 P (GSK, Spain); joined cases from C 468/06 to C 478/06 (GSK, Greece) and case T 321/05 (AstraZeneca).

The article offers explanation of parallel trade, its logic and the reasons behind the acceptance of its limitation as a hard-core restriction of competition. Second key aspect of the article is the overview of different forms of limitations of parallel trade, e.g. supply quotas, dual pricing, life cycle management, co-payment programs, emergency channels, etc.

The article focuses on the review of the case law of the CJEU in order to explain the understanding of that court and of the European Commission of the parallel trade with pharmaceuticals.

The article also reviews key decisions of the Bulgarian Commission for Protection of Competition, related to limitations of parallel trade with pharmaceuticals. The practice of the Bulgarian regulator is far from rich but still has its advantages as product market definition, approach towards co-payment programs, etc.

Unfortunately, the decisions of the Bulgarian Commission cannot be used as guideline for the practitioners due to their poor legal and economic analysis. The commission often remains blind for indications raised by the parties in the proceedings for limitations of parallel trade and often avoids broadening the scope of its investigations, which would have permit the commission a deeper analysis of the effective situation with limitations on parallel trade in Bulgaria.


[1] Eleonora Mateina is senior associate at Tsvetkova Bebov Komarevski, Attorneys-at-law with more than 6 years’ experience in competition law, regulatory and dispute resolution. She is member of the Sofia Bar Association.