Skip to content

About parallel trade

What exactly is parallel trade?

Parallel trade, or parallel imports, is the event in which products are being imported from another country where prices are lower than the importing country. For example, brand X might sell the same product in Italy and in Germany while prices can differ in these respective markets. A parallel import would legally happen when a company buys that product for example in Italy and sells it according to official legislation in Germany. 

Parallel trade is the cross-border sale of goods within the EU by traders outside of the manufacturer’s distribution system without the manufacturer’s consent. The commercial rationale underlying parallel trade is the ability to buy goods in one EU Member State at a relatively low price and subsequently resell them in another Member State where the price is higher. In the case of pharmaceuticals, this is incentivised by the considerable variations in drug prices between EU/EEA Member States.

Parallel trade, or parallel distribution of pharmaceuticals is an essential part of the medical supply chain in the EU Single Market. It originates from the basic agreement of free movement of goods, and starts when intellectual property rights within the Single Market are exhausted for a product. (

parallel import grapharma pharma eaepc

"Trade in products which takes place outside the official distribution system set up by a particular firm. Through their own distribution system, firms may cause differences in prices for different countries, exploiting national differences in the behaviour of consumers. Parallel traders buy products in countries where they are sold at lower prices and sell them in high-price countries. The flow of products thereby created is called parallel trade."

(c) European Commission