Parallel trade in Europe

The price European Governments pay for a particular medicine can vary significantly between countries. This makes it attractive for businesses known as 'parallel traders' to purchase medicines produced genuinely for one country and sell them to other countries where prices are higher.

Parallel traders make large profits from trafficking medicines while healthcare organisations make very small savings using these imports. The inherent danger of parallel trade was demonstrated recently in the UK, when no fewer than four cases of parallel-distributed counterfeit medicines were uncovered in less than two weeks.

Jim Thomson, EAASM Chair: "While parallel trade appeals to those who gain financially, the basis is a market distortion that poses a clear (and now clearly demonstrated) threat to patient safety. These imports hardly benefit consumers as the price differences are not substantial and are unlikely ever to reach patients”.

Most often, medicines have to be repackaged by parallel traders (so that patient information is in the local language of destination); therefore importers are interfering with the integrity of the product, potentially bringing about an increased risk of counterfeiting and piracy.

The EAASM has published a compelling report authored by Dr Jonathan Harper 'European Patient Safety and Parallel Pharmaceutical Trade – a potential public health disaster?'. To find out how you can obtain a copy of the report Click here for part 1 and  click here for part 2.