Small Pharmacies (Medicine Distribution)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Health and Community Care – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 2:15 pm, 15th March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what impact the proposal by Pfizer to distribute its medicines through a single United Kingdom wholesaler will have on small pharmacies, particularly those in rural areas of the Highlands. (S2O-12372)

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

As far as the impact of this proposal on pharmacies is concerned, the Office of Fair Trading is currently considering whether the proposal by Pfizer is uncompetitive. As regards the impact on patients, we have contacted Pfizer to express our concerns, including specific concerns in relation to patients in remote and rural areas.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour

The minister will be aware of my letter to him about the difficulty that Mr David Raeburn, the pharmacist in Strathpeffer, had in accessing a painkilling drug prescribed for a patient, which meant that the patient was, distressingly, without pain relief for a whole week. I understand that the matter will ultimately be decided by the OFT, but in the meantime will the minister tell me what reassurances he has had from Pfizer that patients will not be left in distress because of its actions?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

As I said, we have raised our concerns with Pfizer—and we have had an initial response. We are continuing to have a dialogue with Pfizer to ensure that it fully understands the concern of those involved in the provision of medicines at a local level, and others, that patients should not be disadvantaged by any changes that are made for commercial reasons.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

The minister is aware of the concerns of small, independent pharmacies about Pfizer's action on deliveries. The pharmacies see that action as threatening twice-daily deliveries, patient care and the smaller wholesalers. To be fair, the minister has perhaps already answered this, but will he assure Parliament that he will ensure that Pfizer's move to cut costs, and perhaps to establish an even stronger foothold in the market, will not endanger patient care in Ayrshire and the rest of Scotland?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

The concerns to which John Scott refers have been raised directly with ministers by Maureen Macmillan and other members. I assure John Scott that we will reflect those concerns in our continuing discussions with Pfizer.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

As the minister will be aware, another concern that pharmacists have is the potential reduction in discounts under the new arrangement. Will the next review of reimbursement to pharmacists be undertaken quickly so that, if there is a reduction in discounts, there will not be a long gap before pharmacists receive a corresponding increase in reimbursement?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

It is certainly our intention that there should be no loss of income as a consequence of the changes. We will continue to monitor the situation closely with a view to ensuring that NHS patients continue to receive the services and medicines that they require. Any commercial changes that are made in the marketplace will be taken into account in future reviews.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Question 5 was not lodged.