Astra goes direct to pharmacy for nine products

From this week (November 1), AstraZeneca has changed the way it distributes nine of its 41 brands to retail pharmacies.

A spokesperson for the company says the change has been made to enable AstraZeneca to monitor supply and demand for these specialised products more closely, respond to market need with greater speed and accuracy and improve efficiencies.

The following products will be distributed to retail pharmacies via DHL’s direct-to-pharmacy distribution service:
* Zoladex (goserelin acetate).
* ZolaCos (goserelin-bicalutamide).
* Cosudex (bicalutamide).
* Iressa (gefitinib).
* Lynparza (olaparib).
* Tagrisso (osimertinib).
* Brilinta (ticagrelor).
* Bydureon (exenatide injectable).
* Byetta (exenatide).

The 32 other AstraZeneca products will continue to be distributed to retail pharmacies by existing wholesale distributors, which the spokesperson says will also continue to meet all the company’s hospital-pharmacy distribution requirements, including for the products listed above.

“AstraZeneca will be working closely with wholesalers and pharmacists over the coming weeks to support a smooth transition,” the spokesperson said. “While retail pharmacies will need to make some administrative changes to their ordering process, we don’t expect patients to be affected.

“The vast majority of pharmacies already receive competitor products through DHL and we’re confident we’ve taken appropriate measures to ensure a smooth transition.

“Additional measures have been implemented to assist those pharmacies that do not currently receive pharmaceutical products through DHL.”

The National Pharmaceutical Services Association (NPSA) has called on the federal government to ensure all PBS-listed medicines remain available for distribution to pharmacy by CSO wholesalers in the wake of AstraZeneca’s decision.

“The government is the effective buyer of PBS medicines on behalf of all Australians,” NPSA Chair Mark Hooper said. “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.

“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 towards patient need to one driven by commercial imperatives.”

The NPSA says that while it appreciates pharmaceutical manufacturers should be able to make commercial decisions regarding supply and distribution, there are broader implications that the government needs, carefully and urgently, to consider for patients, pharmacy and CSO wholesalers.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says it strongly supports the NPSA stance and will seek to mobilise its members to ensure all PBS medicines remain available for distribution by the CSO wholesalers at equivalent pricing.