AZ preps for UK distribution switch

AstraZeneca is plowing ahead with a new distribution deal in the UK, despite opposition from regulators there. According to a letter sent to community pharmacists yesterday, AstraZeneca will start the new distribution scheme--handled through just two partners, AAH Pharmaceuticals and UniChem--on February 2.

Under the deal, different drugs will get different discounts off their retail prices, and those discounts won't change with volume. Pharmacies might qualify for rebates, though, according to the total amount of AstraZeneca products they buy each month.

Health officials fear that the direct distribution arrangement--similar to Pfizer's deal with just one distributor, Unichem--will push wholesale prices of certain drugs above National Health Service reimbursement levels. Last week, the country's Office of Fair Trading issued a negative report on the distribution deals and urged the NHS to revise its pricing arrangements to keep costs from rising.

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