AstraZeneca to sell directly to pharmacies

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AstraZeneca will introduce a system that cuts out most wholesalers and sell its pharmaceuticals directly to pharmacies in the United Kingdom, according to the Financial Times.

The London-based said it would instead pay a service fee to just two distributors, AAH and UniChem, from February.

The direct-to-pharmacy plan is similar to one launched by Pfizer last spring, that will allow it to control the discounts on its medicines to pharmacists and work with them to reduce the widespread failure of patients with long-term illnesses to take their drugs as prescribed.

The decision comes a week after the Office of Fair Trading warned that direct-to-pharmacy schemes could be costly to the National Health Service (NHS) more money and reduce the quality of service.

Chris Brinsmead, general manager of AstraZeneca in the United Kingdom, said that the “real strategic value for us is to have an efficient distribution system with a real relationship with pharmacists to provide better patient help.”

The company defended its approach, inspired by piloted schemes run in the past three months for respiratory and cardiovascular medicines, could offer benefits to the NHS by improving patients' health and reducing waste from drugs that are not taken properly.

The Financial Times reported that concerns have arisen about a closer link between pharmaceutical companies and patients could bypass doctors, while having effect on increasing sales for its medicines.