Distribution dust-up

delivery van wholesaler

Calls for supply chain guarantees as another pharma company decides to explore direct distribution to pharmacy

The National Pharmaceutical Services Association (NPSA) is calling for the Federal Government to ensure all PBS-listed medicines remain available for distribution by CSO wholesalers after another manufacturer has announced it will begin direct distribution.

AstraZeneca revealed that it would exclusively distribute a proportion of their products direct to pharmacies, effective from 1 November.

The nine product ranges that will begin direct distribution are:

  • Brilinta (ticagrelor)
  • Bydureon (exenatide inj)
  • Byetta (exenatide)
  • Cosudex (bicalutamide)
  • Iressa (gefitinib)
  • Lynparza (olaparib)
  • Tagrisso (osimertinib)
  • Zoladex (goserelin acetate)
  • ZolaCos (goserelin-bicalutamide)

The company said it would be using DHL to deliver its medicines, via its existing direct to pharmacy distribution service, used since 2012 for Pfizer Direct.

NPSA, the umbrella group representing CSO wholesalers, said in response that the move would see “a number of higher-value and higher-volume medicines, representing around 30% of AstraZeneca’s revenue base, is to bypass wholesalers and be delivered direct-to-pharmacy”.

“The Government is the effective buyer of PBS medicines on behalf of all Australians. To continue to uphold the National Medicines Policy and preserve the principles of equity of access for all Australian patients, it needs to ensure that all PBS-listed medicines are available through the CSO wholesalers at equivalent pricing,” said Mark Hooper, NPSA chairman.

“Allowing the current cross-subsidised system to effectively be picked apart inevitably results in a weakening of the National Medicines Policy and will have flow on implications for pharmacy. Pharmacy felt the substantial financial impact when Pfizer went to a direct distribution model in 2012, and this looks similar.

“Further, overseas experience illustrates how exclusive distribution can change the dynamics of the pharmaceutical distribution supply chain, shifting the focus from pharmacy to manufacturers, from a system orientated toward patient need to one driven by commercial imperatives,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said: “The Guild certainly supports the proposition that all PBS medicines should be available through the wholesalers even where the medicine might also be available direct from the manufacturer.

“We support the NPSA arguments and have also argued this case in our submission to the Pharmacy Review”.

AstraZeneca says it is “making this change so AstraZeneca can monitor supply and demand for these specialised products more closely, respond to market need with greater speed and accuracy and improve efficiencies”.

The 32 other AstraZeneca products will continue to be distributed to retail pharmacies by existing wholesale distributors.  

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