Dutch Online Drug Firm Tests Closed German Market
While Germany's corner drugstores "still evoke memories of a more innocent era," the "medicine monopoly" that requires "face-to-face consultation" between pharmacists and patients before selling even a "single aspirin" has become a "costly and inconvenient anachronism," the Los Angeles Times reports. German pharmacies, championed by the "powerful" ABDA -- the federal Union of German Pharmacists -- face competition from online pharmacies, such as Netherlands-registered 0800.DocMorris.com, but the Times reports that the "giant is still winning" in the "David-and-Goliath clash." After German software developer Ralf Daeinghaus founded DocMorris last year, the company has "made significant inroads" and "waves" in a "heavily regulated" market. However, DocMorris remains "mired in legal challenges" over a law that prohibits delivery of medicines, "ostensibly" to prevent abuse and "preserve the pharmacist-patient relationship," although the "Internet upstarts" maintain that "it's really about money." DocMorris Marketing Director Jens Apermann said, "Pharmaceutical sales are 50 billion marks a year in Germany," or about $23 billion, adding, "There are far too many pharmacies in the country, and many would go bankrupt without this closed system that prevents competition." DocMorris, the ABDA's "only adversary," has "gotten around" the delivery ban by "invoking its status" as a Dutch company to allow customers to send a courier to collect their prescriptions -- a service funded by DocMorris. While a Berlin court affirmed Germans' right to fill prescriptions "across borders," the legal issues surrounding delivery have "yet to be resolved to either side's satisfaction," the Times reports. "Economically, we are a dwarf, but what we are doing is important in that we are driving the discussion on consumer rights to better service and lower prices," Apermann said (Williams, Los Angeles Times, 5/8).