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Below I discuss the new approach to exports within and outside the EEA from Belgium.

1. Total export ban under the Decision of 1 April 2020

Article 3 of the Decision of the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (“FAHMP”) of 1 April 2020 (“old Decision”) was drafted as a total export ban within and outside the EEA.  By way of exception, EEA exports were lawful subject to prior notification to the authority.  It did not provide for an exception for exports outside the EEA.  It was the news article on the FAHMP website of 2 April 2020 that stated that exceptions could be requested for exports outside the EEA.  This approach was highly questionable under EU law.

Article 3 of the FAHMP Decision of 8 April 2020 (“new Decision”) has essentially reversed the total export ban.

2. Non-EEA exports under the Decision of 8 April 2020

Pursuant to article 3(1), exports outside the EEA are now in principle permitted, subject to prior notification and insofar the Minister or the FAHMP have not opposed the export within three working days “after” the notification.  The opposition will be communicated by email to the notifying wholesaler.  The language of this provision suggests that if a company has not heard of the FAHMP within that period, the non-EEA export can go ahead.

The Decision states that the export outside the EEA can be refused if there is an “acute or imminent shortage of the relevant medicines or raw materials, insofar the available volumes are insufficient to fulfill the needs of patients in Belgium during the upcoming four weeks.  The availability of an alternative, therapeutic equivalent alternative is taken into account, as well as the needs for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, on the basis of current epidemiological models and taking into account standard dosages.”

This new approach is likely compliant with EU law.  Exports are in principle allowed, and the authority gives clear public health criteria that could be a ground for refusal.  In general terms, three working days also appears a reasonable time-period, unless the planned export is itself particularly urgent given the global health emergency.

3. Exports within the EEA under the Decision of 8 April 2020

Article 3(2) has been redrafted to reflect that exports to the EEA are in principle permitted.  Other than that, the requirements are identical as under the old Decision: prior notification is required, and the medicine or raw material must be destined for supply or administration in the EEA member state of destination.

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Photo of Bart Van Vooren Bart Van Vooren

Bart Van Vooren has a broad life sciences practice supporting innovative pharmaceutical, food, medtech and biotech companies on EU regulatory, commercial and strategic policy assignments. He is widely recognized for his expertise on general EU law and procedure, as well as his extensive…

Bart Van Vooren has a broad life sciences practice supporting innovative pharmaceutical, food, medtech and biotech companies on EU regulatory, commercial and strategic policy assignments. He is widely recognized for his expertise on general EU law and procedure, as well as his extensive litigation experience before the EU Court of Justice in dozens of cases.

Over the past seven years, Mr. Van Vooren has developed a niche practice on compliance with the Biodiversity Convention and the Nagoya Protocol, a set of rules to combat bio-piracy worldwide. He has accumulated unique, practical experience in dozens of jurisdictions around the world, and has handled everything from benefit-sharing negotiations, over compliance programs, to inspections by authorities.

Finally, Mr. Van Vooren has an active pro bono practice assisting NGOs defending the human rights of persons with a disability through strategic litigation.

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