Pfizer sign
Pfizer sign - 
Listen To The Story

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Britain's drug wholesalers are threatening legal action to block an exclusive distribution deal involving Pfizer. The America drug company is planning to supply medicines for the U.K. market through a single wholesaler. From London, Stephen Beard reports.

STEPHEN BEARD: Pfizer signed an exclusive distribution deal with a British company called Unichem last year. It comes into effect next Monday. Every drug Pfizer sells in the U.K. will then be channeled through Unichem.

Other pharmaceutical wholesalers are up in arms. They argue the deal is anticompetitive, will push up prices, and could even affect the supply chain. Martin Sawer of the British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers:

MARTIN SAWER: We would like the regulators to look more closely at whether the supply chain will be as robust with just one wholesaler. Currently pharmacies have two or more wholesalers on their books so that if one product runs out, they have access to another wholesaler.

He says if the British competition authorities don't act to stop the deal, his organization may sue. But Pfizer says the deal will help it keep counterfeit medicines out of Britain. The company is considering similar exclusive distribution contracts across Europe.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.