Parallel Imports of Pharmaceutical Products in the European Union
27 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016
Date Written: July 1, 1999
July 2001 Parallel imports are legitimately produced goods imported legally into a country without the authorization of a trademark, copyright, or patent holder. In the European Union, so long as a pharmaceutical manufacturer has placed a good on the market voluntarily, the principle of free movement of goods allows individuals or firms within the EU to trade goods across borders without the consent of the producer. What is the effect of these parallel imports?
The point of parallel imports of pharmaceuticals is arbitrage between countries with different prices. For several years, an important issue in the European Union has been the evident conflict between differing price regulations in the member states, on the one hand, and the consequences of parallel trade, on the other.
In the EU, so long as the manufacturer has placed the good on the market voluntarily, the principle of free movement of goods allows individuals or firms within the EU to trade goods across borders without the consent of the producer.
In this context, Ganslandt and Maskus study the effects of parallel trade in the pharmaceutical industry. They develop a model in which an original manufacturer competes in its home market with parallel-importing firms.
The two key hypotheses in their theoretical analysis are these: First, if the potential for parallel imports is unlimited, the manufacturer chooses deterrence and international prices converge. Second, with endogenously limited arbitrage, the manufacturing firm accommodates and the price in the home market falls as the volume of parallel trade rises.
The authors test their hypotheses on data from the Swedish market for 1995-1998. Before 1995 Sweden prohibited parallel imports of pharmaceutical products, but entry into the European Union, on January 1, 1995, required Sweden to allow them.
Simple empirical tests favor the accommodation hypothesis with a time lag. Using data from Sweden, Ganslandt and Maskus find that the prices of drugs subject to competition from parallel imports increased less than those for other drugs between 1995 and 1998. Roughly three-fourths of this effect can be attributed to the lower prices of parallel imports and one-fourth to lower prices charged by the manufacturing firm.
Econometric analysis finds that rents to parallel importers (or resource costs in parallel trade) could be more than the gain to consumers from lower prices.
This paper is a product of Trade, Development Research Group. The authors may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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