Bayer Schering Pharma has picked three partners for the distribution of its prescription medicines in the UK under a new wholesaler model intended to simplify its supply chain.

The group has selected Alliance Healthcare unit UniChem, Phoenix Healthcare and AAH Pharmaceuticals to distribute its medicines in the country, although arrangements for its Consumer Care and Diabetes Care products remain unchanged, the drugmaker said.

According to a spokesperson for the company, the move to simplify the supply chain was undertaken to “keep pace with recent market developments”, and “should see improvements in continuity of supply for UK patients”.

Since Pfizer first took the bold step back in 2006 of shaking up its supply system by appointing UniChem as the sole distributor for its prescription-only medicines to pharmacists and dispensing doctors in the UK, many drugmakers have followed suit by reducing their number of partners for drug distribution.

For example, earlier this year, Pheonix beat rival AAH Pharmaceuticals to win a contract from Danish group Novo Nordisk to distribute its products within the UK, and towards to the end of 2008 drug giant GlaxoSmithKline announced changes to its distribution model that will see AAH and UniChem become its only suppliers in the country.

Drugmakers argue that such arrangements allow them much tighter control of the supply chain, leaving less room for the infiltration of counterfeit medicines, but those opposing the move have cited concerns over how this may affect service quality, potential fragmentation of the wholesale sector and higher costs to the National Health Service.