“Are your wholesalers treating you fairly and providing a good service during the COVID pandemic?”
Pharmacy: Newdays Pharmacy Ltd
The pandemic meant that pharmacy and the associated medicines supply were suddenly in the spotlight. However, in March, while my prescription numbers rose by 30 per cent, my wholesale drug bills more than doubled. Barely three weeks into the month, I exceeded my spending limit with one of the major wholesalers, and was unable to order further medicine. I spent days wrangling with management, and by night, after 15-hour days behind the counter, I found myself driving between my pharmacies, carrying stock to make sure urgent prescriptions could be fulfilled.
Independents were also desperate for PPE. When, finally, it did become available, it was so expensive that I had no choice but to continue to source it via eBay!
We must get equal access to stock, at a fair price. Allowing this situation to continue creates a postcode lottery for patient access to drugs, and once again, affects small independents hardest. If wholesalers cannot be trusted to self regulate, then the government must step in.
Pharmacy: Ashgrove Pharmacy, Bristol
After more than 30 years in business, my cynicism has reached the level that I no longer expect any wholesaler to treat me fairly, so the ‘small order’ and fuel surcharges are no surprise, even though their imposition at a time when we are all trying to support patients sticks in the throat.
The service during COVID pandemic is not significantly different, except when depot staff or, worse still, an entire Controlled Drug team have an outbreak of COVID infection and must isolate, meaning a further unexpected delay in stock supply. Meanwhile, the cut-off times have been shortened so that the concept of a twice-daily delivery is gone, and we only receive an “afternoon delivery” because the “morning delivery” is so delayed.
The only good thing about the response to the pandemic is that the wholesalers’ reps are not appearing with their briefcase stuffed with offers and new ways to tempt an extra monthly payment for unnecessary merchandising and undeliverable private services.
Pharmacy: New Life Pharmacy, Glasgow
In the second week in March, I received a call from my wholesaler telling me that, because I had overspent, it was suspending my account. Anyone who lived through those early weeks in March will hopefully sympathise with my predicament and question the fairness of the decision.
There was a point when all wholesalers struggled to fulfil orders through sheer volumes plus drug shortages. Some also had to contend with Covid outbreaks in their warehouses so it has not been easy for them.
Generally, the pressures in community pharmacy directly reflects the pressures in the wholesale and distribution service, fluctuation in generic prices means loyalty needs to be spread widely but we’re all in this together and thanks to our wholesalers for helping us through this.
The Big Question:
Would you like to take part in a future big question? If so, please contact InPharmacy Editor Rob Dabrowski at [email protected]