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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Pharmaceutical Monopoly in Italy

A week after I first arrived in Italy I developed a headache.
I walked to my local Supermarket to buy aspirin, but alas, I could not find them anywhere in the store.
When Buzzurro came home from work I told him that I looked all over for aspirin in the supermarket, and could not find them. He asked me if I had gone to a pharmacy.
"No," I answered. "Of course not. I went to the supermarket."
He replied that in Italy, ALL medicines, those requiring a prescription as well as those who don't, by Italian law can only be sold in a pharmacy.
The next day I went to a pharmacy and saw a box of aspirin on sale. There were 10 in a box and the price was 3 euros and 80 cent.
"What !" I thought to myself "3 euros and 80 cent. For 10 aspirin? Are they crazy here?" (but bought them anyway because I still did have a headache).
This was my first experience with the miseries brought upon the Italian nation by the monopoly of pharmacies, Federfarma.

Federfarma is opposed to the selling of over the counter OTC medications in any place other than a pharmacy.
Of course this keeps the prices of the non-prescription medicines such as aspirin extremely high.
They set the prices.
Competition is not a factor at all.
Their reasoning being that selling non-prescription medicines in a store other than a pharmacy is dangerous and will create grave risks for diseases caused by misuse or overmedication.

They want the public to buy all medicines in a pharmacy because the pharmacist explains the doses of medicine needed and how to correctly use them.
I for one have never had a pharmacist explain to me how to take an aspirin.
I buy them at their extremely high price, go home, and read the instruction booklet for the medicines which is included in the box of them.
I assume that other people in Italy can read and do this too.
Non-prescription medicine is the costliest in Italy than in all of Europe, the US and for all I know, the rest of the world.
I read somewhere that there is a small group of Italian consumers that they have a petition requesting the sale of non-prescription medications in stores other than pharmacies.
I don't know who they are, I've never seen a petition, but sign me up ! It's a worthy cause.