Co-operation decision welcomed by wholesalers

The ACCC has granted authorisation for NPSA members to coordinate supply of medicines and pharmacy products for a further 12 months

Medicines wholesalers in Australia can continue to co-operate in co-ordinating the supply, inventory management, distribution, logistics, and import of essential medication and pharmacy products for another 12 months, according to a new determination by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Interim authorisation was initially granted in March this year, however the ACCC has agreed to extend these activities until 30 September 2021 after granting final authorisation.

This determination allows National Pharmaceutical Services Association (NPSA) current and future members and Community Service Obligation distributors to coordinate activities necessary to provide continued and equitable access to medicines and pharmacy products for Australians during supply shortages that may arise from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The ACCC considers that authorising the proposed conduct is likely to result in public benefits by allowing the participants to work together and where necessary, with relevant Government agencies, to address shortages of medicines and pharmacy products that arise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the Commission on announcing its decision.

Members of NPSA, which comprise Sigma Healthcare, Symbion, National Pharmacies and Australian Pharmaceutical Industries (API), welcomed the news.

“We thank the ACCC for its determination, which comes at a critical time as the health sector plans for the logistics roll-out of an approved vaccine for COVID-19,” said Richard Vincent, NPSA Chairman and CEO and Managing Director of API.

“We are pleased to be able to continue working together and supporting government at this difficult time. Since being granted interim authorisation in March, NPSA has formed a highly productive working group to co-ordinate and help ensure community access to medicines.

“In addition we have actively participated in the government’s Medicines Shortage Working Party, engaging closely with the TGA and the entire supply chain to help manage medicines shortages as well as providing the ACCC with regular updates on developments,” said Mr Vincent.

“The importance of reliable medicines and vaccines availability and distribution to all corners of Australia is essential and we are proud to be able to fulfil this role.”

Authorisation is subject to conditions that allow the ACCC to monitor the authorised conduct, said the Commission on Thursday. It has previously stated that price fixing behaviour is not authorised.

“Competitors sharing information and coordinating supply of goods and/or services has the potential to lessen competition and result in consumer detriment by restricting supply and increasing prices, stifling innovation and preventing businesses from entering the market,” it said in the final determination.

“However in this case, the ACCC considers that the proposed conduct is unlikely to significantly weaken competition beyond the short term because it does not enable the sharing of price information and is subject to a condition that provides ACCC oversight of the conduct.”

If no application for review of the determination is made to the Australian Competition Tribunal, the final authorisation will come into effect on 9 October 2020.

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