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PSNC speaks out on 'risk' of wholesaler antibiotic profiteering

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PSNC speaks out on 'risk' of wholesaler antibiotic profiteering

By Neil Trainis

PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison has commented on the "risk" that profiteering within the supply chain may be driving up the price of antibiotics as pharmacies continuously struggle to source the drugs and patient demand increases rapidly.

Sixteen children have now died from strep A as frantic parents try to get hold of antibiotics from community pharmacies, which have reported widespread shortages.

The Government and supply chain players including the Healthcare Distribution Association, which represents wholesalers, have denied there is a shortage of antibiotics in recent days. There has so far been no evidence of profiteering from wholesalers or manufacturers.

Ms Morrison revealed the PSNC handed the Department of Health and Social Care a list of 30 antibiotic lines this month that it believes needs to undergo a “price review” because pharmacies “can’t afford to dispense at a loss".

“We’re hearing from a very large number of pharmacies that they’re struggling to get hold of antibiotics. That spike in demand has also been caused by the lowering of prescribing thresholds and that has caused serious price hikes… two or three or even 10 times the Tariff that we get paid by the government,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

When asked if she thought profiteering was going on, Ms Morrison said: “There’s a risk of that. Whenever there’s a low level of supply and high level of demand, then of course there’s a risk of price hikes.

“What we’re saying is pharmacies just simply can’t afford to bridge that gap, so there has to be a fair pricing system and government has got to review that. They need to check that wholesalers or manufacturers, no-one is taking advantage of what is a really serious situation for patients.”

HDA executive director Martin Sawer told the Financial Times that increased prices “reflected the amount wholesalers were having to pay manufacturers".

When asked if it was reassuring that the Competition and Markets Authority can take action against anyone abusing their market position by charging unfair prices, Ms Morrison replied: “Up to a point but I think they need to be very rigorous about making sure that happens because we very frequently face the fact there’s a very big gap between the official tariff and what we’re actually paying.”

Questioning the government’s assertion that sufficient stocks of antibiotics are available, she said: “On Friday and Saturday, we were hearing from pharmacies who were still reporting that many lines were out of stock at the wholesalers. So, there are some serious issues about supply.

“We can’t bridge that gap between what they pay us and what the pharmacies are paying because we’re facing our own funding crisis and fragility.”

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