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UK wholesalers lose High Court fight on Pfizer supply deal


The hopes of UK wholesalers to block Pfizer’s exclusive supply deal with Alliance Boots have been dashed after the High Court ruled in favour of the New-York-based drugs giant.

Eight wholesalers went to court to seek an injunction that would stop Pfizer’s plan, announced at the end of October last year, to use Alliance Boots’ UniChem division as a sole distributor for its prescription-only medicines to pharmacists and dispensing doctors in the UK. However Justice David Richards told them that “my decision is that I refuse your application for an injunction” and said that he would give his reasons later today.

Pfizer said it was “delighted” by the High Court’s ruling to reject the attempt of a number of wholesalers to suspend and disrupt the implementation of its new, direct to pharmacy supply model. A company spokesperson noted that “the scheme will go live as planned” today, adding that the firm “is confident that its new distribution arrangement is in full compliance with all applicable EU and UK laws”. The spokesperson concluded that the deal “will secure the supply chain and allow the company to take full responsibility for its medicines from the point at which they leave its manufacturing centres until they reach dispensing customers”.

Pfizer says the scheme has been created to solve issues relating to the current supply chain’s vulnerability – underscored last year by three batches of counterfeit atorvastatin (Lipitor®) that involved the recall of 120,000 packs, but the decision has been opposed by wholesalers who claim that the agreement stifles competition.

The wholesalers had called for the pact, which gives UniChem, the right to supply 15,000 pharmacies, hospitals and dispensing doctors in the UK, to be suspended until the Office of Fair Trading and the Department of Health give their verdicts on the deal. Complaints were first made to the OFT in November last year but the government watchdog has yet to make any ruling.

Pharma Times 02/03/2007


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