Mixed ruling sees White & Case win a halt to parallel trade in medicines

White & Case has secured a mixed ruling on one of the most anticipated judgments on competition law from the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The US firm, acting for the Greek arm of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was instructed on a dispute with pharmaceutical wholesalers over the parallel trade in drugs.

The ruling could have implications for the price of medicines across Europe.

White & Case argued that wholesalers in Greece, which has the lowest drug prices in Europe, were ­placing increasingly large orders for pharmaceuticals and then exporting them at higher prices to other EU states. In 2000 this practice prompted GSK to stop ­trading with wholesalers.

The ECJ ruled that GSK was abusing its dominant position if it refused to meet “ordinary” ;orders ;for ­medical products.

With this decision the court has tried to stop ­parallel exports, which are a breach of EU competition rules.

The judges added that it was up to an individual country’s courts to decide whether ;orders ;were ­“ordinary”.

White & Case partner Ian Forrester QC led for GSK with associate Axel Schulz. All other parties, including the Commission of the European Communities, were represented in-house.