Australian pharmacies run short on Pfizer meds

Pfizer's new self-distribution approach in Australia is drawing fire. The company pulled out of the government-subsidized distribution system, choosing to distribute its products exclusively, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Pharmacists are now complaining they can't get their hands on Pfizer drugs when they need them.

In some cases, the paper says, patients are waiting days for their scrips to be filled. At least one hospitalization has been blamed on a distribution delay. "We have been overwhelmed with hundreds of responses from pharmacists," said Mark Hooper, president of the National Pharmaceutical Services Association.

The country's drug wholesalers say Pfizer's approach imperils the entire system. Hooper's association is lobbying lawmakers to intervene, arming itself with a commissioned report from Deloitte Access Economics that says Pfizer's abandonment of the wholesale supply network could induce other drugmakers to do the same, causing drug supplies to be restricted. The company's distribution change "threatens timely and reliable access to [prescription] medicines," the report's author told the Herald.

Here's one difference in the distribution approach, pharmacies said. Other drugmakers' products are delivered for free up to twice a day. Pfizer, on the other hand, says that it provides five free deliveries a month. Critical products are delivered on the same day "wherever possible," a company spokeswoman said.

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