Pfizer's plan to introduce a distribution system that delivers its prescription-only medicines direct to pharmacists and dispensing doctors in the UK – and crucially its use of Alliance Boots division Unichem as a sole distributor – has come under the scrutiny of the Office of Fair Trading.
The OFT says it has had a number of complaints expressing concern over Pfizer’s plan, due to come into effect from March 2007, and told Pharma Times World News that it is considering whether the move raises any competition concerns and whether it will investigate the matter further. A decision will be made by 16 November.
Pfizer insists that the new system has been created to solve issues relating to the current supply chain's vulnerability - underscored in the last 12 months by three batches of counterfeit Lipitor that involved the recall of 120,000 packs.
Using a single distributor will allow Pfizer to take full responsibility for its drugs "from when they leave manufacturing centres until they are sold." But critics have claimed that Pfizer is trying to control discounts in the supply chain and could use the system to discourage parallel imports.
A spokesperson for wholesaler AAH Pharmaceuticals, one of the fiercest critics of the move, said that it will be submitting a complaint to the OFT in the next fortnight.
This comes on the back of news that the National Pharmacy Association is also considering lodging a formal complaint with the OFT, and that the British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers is exploring a legal challenge.