AstraZeneca Opts for Direct Pharmacy Distribution in the UK

December 26, 2007

AstraZeneca UK will have a new direct distribution deal with community pharmacies, dispensing doctors and hospitals, including commercial arrangements and supply-and-delivery service, starting Feb. 2, 2008. From that date, AAH Pharmaceuticals and UniChem will deliver AstraZeneca medicines directly to customers and patients in the UK.

The company also is introducing a discount and rebate structure for the pharmacies in conjunction with the new direct supply-and-delivery approach. These savings seem intended to head off criticism that direct-to-pharmacy distribution contracts may increase costs to the UK’s National Health Service by up to hundreds of millions of pounds, as a recent study from the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) found.

The OFT began the study after receiving complaints from pharmacists, wholesalers and dispensing physicians over Pfizer’s exclusive distribution contract with UniChem. The study investigated the anticompetitive impact of manufacturers introducing direct-to-pharmacy contracts or reducing the number of distributors they use. On the other hand, agreements such as Pfizer’s and AstraZeneca’s could create efficiencies in distribution, the study says.

As part of a broader strategic plan, AstraZeneca UK said it will make significant investments in UK pharmacy-based patient support programs that help patients manage their medications. The company is examining several different patient support initiatives and aims to involve 250 pharmacists in the initial phase and 1,000 pharmacists within the first year.

The OFT’s report can be seen at www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/reports/comp_policy/oft967.pdf.