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Wednesday 20th June 2018

Drugs bill rise for NHS?

11th December 2007

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has discovered a "significant risk" of increased drugs charges for the NHS due to a shift in the way drugs are distributed.


The total spend by the NHS on branded medicines available on prescription is £6bn a year. The changes are a move away from a process where pharmacies would compete to distribute the medicines.

The OFT started its investigation earlier in 2007 after the world's largest pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced changes, which were given the name "Direct to Pharmacy".

The change in process meant its drugs were sold through Unichem alone. "We are committed to maintaining our distribution service levels, which are in excess of 99%," Unichem said.

Other firms, including AstraZeneca, have already made, or are expected to make, similar shifts in their methods of distribution.

Pfizer said that the change in distribution methods had not increased the amount the NHS paid for its drugs. It said that it had consulted the Department of Health about the scheme and that the change in method was designed to combat the sale of counterfeit drugs.

"Patient safety is our paramount concern," said John Young, Managing Director at Pfizer Limited.

"Our scheme has resulted in increased confidence in the secure supply of Pfizer medicines since its introduction in March 2007 at no additional cost to the NHS."

The OFT warned that the government should take action to make certain the change in distribution did not cause a rise in prices.

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