The ACCC has made a decision which wholesalers say will facilitate discussions with Government for potential involvement in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout
The ACCC has extended existing authorisation allowing NPSA members—Australian Pharmaceutical Industries, National Pharmacies, Sigma Healthcare and Symbion—to continue to co-operate to ensure uninterrupted, equitable and timely distribution of medicines and pharmacy products during the COVID-19 crisis.
The ACCC also granted new interim authorisation allowing discussions on distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines by the wholesaler network, to both meet demand and ensure the most efficient system for patient access to available vaccines with minimal wastage.
“This interim authorisation granted by the ACCC enables the medicine wholesalers to respond quickly if the Government chooses to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to pharmacies through the wholesalers,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
The NPSA applied to the ACCC this month on behalf of its members for authorisation to engage in this conduct. The ACCC previously authorised similar conduct in September 2020 for a period of 12 months.
“Australia is still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic including the growing impact of the Delta strain, so it remains in the public interest to allow pharmacy wholesalers to work together to ensure people continue to have access to critical medicines during times of high demand,” Mr Sims said.
“The ACCC interim authorisation will facilitate pharmacy wholesalers entering into discussions and arrangements for the distribution of the vaccines to pharmacies to meet demand as well as to ensure minimal waste of the available vaccine.”
Any co-ordination by pharmaceutical wholesalers will continue to be subject to oversight from government and other regulatory bodies, and the ACCC will receive regular reports, including about any co-ordination for COVID-19 vaccine distribution should the NPSA and Department of Health enter into an arrangement about its distribution.
NPSA Chair Richard Vincent said, “The CSO wholesalers are very proud that our dedicated medicines logistics expertise that has supported Australians throughout the pandemic has been recognised in this most recent ACCC decision.
“With our highly reliable storage and distribution infrastructure we remain ready to step in and help manage and futureproof the COVID-19 vaccines rollout.
“Rapid deployment of high-volume cold chain logistics into multiple pharmacy and hospital distribution points is our core business.
“We do this every day for 5,700 community pharmacies with more than 300 million PBS medicines, vaccines and pharmacy products each year.
“Pharmacies have shown they are critical to lifting the vaccination rates to protect Australians and restart the economy.
“It makes good sense to bring the CSO wholesalers into the rollout to increase efficiency and crucially to prevent wastage of available vaccines.
“Our proven daily delivery model as CSO wholesalers safeguards the supply of medicines and vaccines and ensures the right medicines and vaccines are distributed to the right location at the right time.
“We thank the ACCC for its consideration of our application and look forward to continuing to contribute to maximise the effectiveness of the Government’s response for all medicines including the COVID-19 vaccines.”
The ACCC will now seek feedback on the application for authorisation which is sought for a period of 12 months. More information, including the ACCC’s statement of reasons, is available on the ACCC’s website at National Pharmaceutical Services Association.