The company operating Lloyds pharmacies here has brought a legal challenge to new regulations governing the display of non-prescription medicines which may only be sold in pharmacies.

Lloyds Pharmacy Ireland Ltd, which owns and operates 90 retail pharmacies in the State, claims the regulations, which require such medicines to be stored in a part of the premises to which the public does not have access, breach its property rights, and will cost it at least €1m a year.

It claims the regulations amount to an unlawful prohibition, or substantial limitation, on the visual display of non-prescription, pharmacy-only medicines — known as P-meds. These include painkillers such as Panadol or Disprin and their generic equivalents and vitamin products like Pharmaton and Clonfolic.

Some 620 products, including eye and ear drops and cold and flu remedies, are currently classified as P-meds.

It is claimed the regulations foreclose an important channel of advertisement to, and communication, with the consumer, and will result in the stagnation of the P-meds market with a discriminatory effect against imported products.

Judge Brian McGovern agreed yesterday to an application by David Barniville, counsel for the company, to fast-track the proceedings in the Commercial Court.

Brian Kennedy, for the minister for health and the State, consented to the case being fast-tracked but said his clients believe the case raised important public health as well as commercial issues.

Judge McGovern made directions for exchange of legal documents and returned the case to November.

As part of its case, the company claims the 2016 regulations breach general principles of EU law and impermissibly exceed the requirements of a 2001 EC Directive relating to medicinal products for human use.

It is claimed the regulations will impede the transfer of new products from other EU states to Ireland and encourage consumers to request those products already known to them. That, it is claimed, means the regulations breach EU free movement of goods principles.

It is also alleged the company will incur significant expense in re-fitting its 90 stores to comply with the regulations.


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