Wholesalers given permission to work together to ensure medicine supply consistency and continuity
Pharmaceutical wholesalers have been granted interim permission to undertake proactive measures to “support the continuous, fair and equitable supply of medicines across Australia in response to COVID-19”.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) today (31 March) said it had ticked off an application by the wholesalers enabling them to co-ordinate the supply, inventory management, distribution, logistics, and import of pharmaceuticals needed by consumers and hospitals.
“Allowing pharmacy wholesalers to work together to help make vital medicines accessible to everyone during this pandemic is clearly in the national interest,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
The interim authorisation excludes any price coordination in relation to the sourcing and supply of medicines and pharmacy products.
The request had come from the wholesalers peak body, the National Pharmaceutical Services Association (NPSA), whose chair, Mark Hooper, welcomed the decision.
“This is an important development, which will build on emergency measures taken by each wholesaler, government and other stakeholders to appropriately calibrate and optimise the medicines supply chain as we respond to increased demand for both medicines and pharmacy products during this crisis,” Mr Hooper said.
“We thank the ACCC for its quick consideration of this matter, which will deliver benefits for consumers by assisting wholesalers in several key practical ways including allowing sustainable coordination of stock acquisition, liaising with medicine manufacturers on purchasing and importing logistics, coordinating inventory management strategies and sharing of distribution centre resources.”
The co-ordination by pharmaceutical wholesalers will be subject to oversight from government and other regulatory bodies, the ACCC said.
Price fixing behaviour was not authorised, and the ACCC can review the authorisation at any time.
“We have approved this interim authorisation as a matter of urgency given the challenges to the health and medical system from this unprecedented pandemic,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC will now seek feedback on the interim authorisation, as well as the application for final authorisation which is sought for a period of 12 months.
“I’m proud of the tireless work and dedication I am seeing across our sector at a time when our resources are stretched to the limit. We are liaising closely with government and other industry stakeholders and it has been pleasing to see urgent problem-solving and constructive initiatives that have really made a difference,” Mr Hooper said.