Skip to NavigationSkip to content

Pharmacists unhappy with Pfizer's new UK supply chain

Published on 29/09/06 at 05:39pm

Pfizer has announced a radical overhaul of how it distributes its medicines to community pharmacists and dispensing doctors in the UK, making UniChem its sole distributor.

The new system is the first of its kind and Pfizer says it is introducing it to respond better to stock shortages and reduce the risk of counterfeit medicines entering the supply chain.

Counterfeits of Pfizer's biggest selling product, Lipitor were found in the UK supply chain on several occasions in 2005, and disreputable wholesalers were under suspicion of having allowed the fake medicines into the system.

Pfizer says allowing just one of the well-known 'full line' distributors handling its medicines will give it improved visibility over the supply chain, and allow it to trace and recall Pfizer medicines if and when required.

But pharmacists body the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) says it is very concerned by the move.

It says Pfizer has a hidden agenda to kill off parallel trade and drug diversion, a practice which many UK community pharmacists use to boost their earnings.

PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe said: "PSNC is concerned that having only one source of supply could mean pharmacies cannot meet patient needs promptly. There have been many cases of supply shortages of some Pfizer medicines in recent months, which pharmacies have been able to overcome by finding a wholesaler with some stock."

The PSNC says there is no experience in the UK of a single supply route for major product lines, and believes it is unnecessary. Pfizer's decision will oblige pharmacies to open an account with the sole distributor, a requirement the PSNC says will cause unnecessary extra cost and administrative burden on pharmacies that use one of the other full line wholesalers.

Sue Sharpe concluded: "We are totally supportive of action to remove the risk of counterfeit medicines entering the supply chain. We have seen no evidence that this is directly attributable to parallel trade, and it appears from the MHRA comment that the counterfeits were not packaged as PIs."

Pfizer has invested millions in new electronic tagging technology to track Viagra  medicines in the US market and  help counteract counterfeiters and parallel traders.

Pfizer already operates a 'direct distribution' system in Spain, and is understood to be considering similar schemes across Europe.


Mission Statement is a leading portal for the pharmaceutical industry, providing industry professionals with pharma news, pharma events, pharma service company listings and pharma jobs,
Site content is produced by our editorial team exclusively for and our industry newspaper Pharmafocus. Service company profiles and listings are taken from our pharmaceutical industry directory, Pharmafile, and presented in a unique Find and Compare format to ensure the most relevant matches