A supermarket chain in Italy is collecting signatures from the public to try to rally support for proposed legislation that would liberalise the market for over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.

Coop Adriatica wants to make it possible to sell OTC drugs at supermarkets and other retail outlets, as well as in pharmacies, with the consumer bearing the complete cost of the product.

This would lead to a reduction in the price of non-prescription medicines of 25% to 50% for some lines, bringing prices into line with other countries in Europe, Coop Adriatica estimates.

At the moment, non-prescription drugs in Italy can only be sold through pharmacies. Coop Adriatica wants to set up pharmacy counters in its stores that would have a trained pharmacist in attendance and would be able to sell essential items such as aspirin and paracetamol.

Federfarma, the pharmacy industry group, has been accused of operating a monopoly and keeping the prices of OTC medicines artificially high.

Coop Adriatica will win the right to present its bill to the Italian parliament if it can secure 80,000 signatures.

“If the bill gets through parliament, it will make it possible to sell a range of drugs for which a prescription is not necessary outside pharmacies,” explained president of Coop Adriatica Pierluigi Stefanini. “This liberalisation will bring in market forces that should quickly lead to reduced costs for consumers.”