Pfizer may have to turn back on its move to a single-distribution channel for its drugs, as preliminary findings from an ongoing Office of Fair Trading investigation are reportedly not leaning in the drug giant’s favour.
According to The Times, OFT officials involved in the investigation into Pfizer’s ‘direct-to-pharmacy’ model met with the Department of Health this week to share their preliminary findings, and the newspaper claims that talks touched on implementing measures that would force Pfizer to ask other wholesalers to act as distributors for its products too.
Late last year, the company shocked the industry after unveiling an exclusive supply deal with Alliance Boots unit UniChem, prompting the OFT to launch a market study into the distribution of medicines in the UK in order to assess how the changes might affect competition.
Pfizer claims that the move will help it gain more control over its supply chain, leaving less room for the injection of counterfeit medicines, and drugmakers such as Sanofi-Aventis and AstraZeneca have since also announced plans to look at their distribution channels.
But those against the move have voiced serious concerns about the potential effects on the wholesaling sector. One of its fiercest opponents, Steve Dunn of AAH Pharmaceuticals, accused Pfizer at the time it announced its new deal of putting “its commercial interests above those of pharmacists and patients” and suggested that the change could fragment the supply chain, potentially affecting every company.
“The existing distribution system works well, allowing pharmaceutical companies to focus on their core competencies,” he concluded. “There seems to be little logic in replacing it with a largely unproved system.”
The OFT’s final conclusions are expected to be announced before the end of the year. The DH is not bound to accept its recommendations, but the findings of the investigation will no doubt be a key factor in its ultimate decision.
A spokesperson for the DH could not be reached for comment.