The Competition and Markets Authority should “look into” hub and spoke dispensing to ensure that any future legislation changes do not disadvantage independent pharmacies, the National Pharmacy Association has said.
In a statement earlier today, the NPA called on the Government to ask the CMA to examine how fair and competitive market operations can be maintained once the law is changed to allow dispensing hubs to work with more than one ‘spoke’ company.
The NPA set a number of tests it believes should be met, including: requiring all hubs to be registered pharmacies and meet all regulatory standards; preventing hubs from trying to “circumvent the relationship between the spoke and the patient”’; ensuring pharmacies can easily change their hub provider; and facilitating market entry by removing the direct to pharmacy and limited wholesaler schemes.
To meet the latter test, the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 will need to be amended so that manufacturers are obliged “to supply the reasonable needs of all registered holders of a wholesaler dealer’s licence or a registered pharmacy,“ said the NPA.
The Department of Health and Social Care should also conduct a market review both before and after inter-company hub and spoke is introduced, it added.
NPA vice chair Nick Kaye said: “If the Government believes that hub and spoke dispensing is the future for pharmacy, it must do more to allow independents to engage with the model on a level playing field and to prevent unintended consequences.
“This includes ensuring that pharmacies do not have access to hub services, or choose not to use hub services are not disadvantaged.
“The Government should also ensure that manufacturer-controlled supply restrictions, which stifle competition along the supply chain, are swept away.
“The CMA is an obvious place to start for scrutinising the matter and achieving a competitive environment that works for independents and the NHS.”
The Medicines and Medical Devices Act, which will give the Government powers to change legislation around how medicines can be dispensed, received royal assent in March this year.
Pharmacy minister Jo Churchill made a commitment earlier this year to holding a full public consultation on hub and spoke operations involving multiple businesses before laws are changed to allow this, but no date has yet been set for this.