Wholesaler surcharges unfair, say independents

04 Dec 2020

The results of an NPA member survey released today indicate that the majority of independent pharmacies believe their mainline wholesalers have an unfair system of pricing for surcharges.

Most also say that there is inadequate flagging to avoid inadvertently triggering a charge.

Alarmed at continuing complaints from members about aspects of medicines supply, the NPA ran the survey throughout November.

Nearly 7 in 10 respondents said their mainline wholesalers apply surcharges that are not clearly justifiable and proportionate.

Only one in 10 believed that quotas are allocated equitably, either sometimes or always. Most reported that the number of products on quota has increased over the last six months.

Some respondents stated that they felt national chains do not have the same problems as independent pharmacies and are given preferential treatment when it comes to obtaining stock.

78% said that they have “issues” with Alliance Healthcare surcharges, more than twice the number for AAH and Phoenix combined. This in part reflects the respective market positions of these three wholesalers.

NPA public affairs manager, Neil Bhayani, said:

“The size of the survey is small, but clear themes did appear, which we want to explore further with pharmaceutical wholesalers. The majority of the complaints we get are about surcharges. We will be asking wholesalers to listen to their independent customers and to review their policies on surcharges.”

This is the third Wholesaler Service Standards survey run by the National Pharmacy Association. The survey in 2018/2019 asked members to score their wholesalers according to a set of markers, including markers for efficiency, customer service and fairness. The latest survey is a smaller, snapshot survey, aimed at finding out more about supply issues in the context of COVID-19.

The number of pharmacies represented in the survey was 118.