Together, the Netherlands and Belgium have a population of 27.7 million inhabitants spread over an area of 71,600 km2. Their joint pharmaceutical market size was US $12.4 billion for 2012, with anOTC share of US $1.7 billion. In the Netherlands, drugstores have been permitted to sell OTC medicines for about a century.
The value-added tax for medicines in both the Netherlands and Belgium is 6%. The Netherlands has about 2,000 pharmacies; multiple ownership was legalised in 1987. Since 1999, non-pharmacists have been able to own pharmacies and employ pharmacists to supervise them, and 32% of community pharmacies are considered part of a pharmacy chain, with owners being mainly wholesale companies.
In the Netherlands, Mediq is a large chain with 13% of the market share; the next largest shares are controlled by the Benu and Alliance Healthcare pharmacies. By contrast, Belgium is home to about 5,200 pharmacies, with independent pharmacies representing 85% of the market share and chain pharmacies representing 15%. In Belgium, pharmacies can also be owned by pharmacists, non-pharmacists, partnerships and companies.