Novartis pares down U.K. distribution

Novartis is about to become the latest Big Pharma to narrow its U.K. distribution channel. Never mind the watchdogs already eyeing similar deals--such as the one struck by Pfizer, with just a single distribution company, UniChem. The so-called Direct-to-Pharmacy arrangement is touted as more efficient and secure; with drug counterfeiting an increasing problem in Europe, tighter control over product movements is a defensive posture. Plus, DTP allows drugmakers to keep closer track of their downstream supply chains. Beginning in August, Novartis will be using just two distributors: UniChem and AAH Pharmaceuticals. In addition to Pfizer and Novartis, AstraZeneca has signed on to DTP, and Eli Lilly is said to be considering a move.

Regulators fear that the deals will push up prices for meds, and some small pharmacists fear they'll be cut out of the loop. Accusations are flying that the deals are meant to stifle parallel imports--the practice of reselling meds imported from another country where drug prices are lower. Expect DTP to get a lot of air time at next month's annual meeting of the European Pharmaceutical Industry Association; we'll let you know what we hear.

- check out Novartis' release
- see the article at Pharmafocus