The "temporary interruption" to distribution – which began on Monday (October 29) – is to "facilitate the transition from a direct-to-pharmacy model to a reduced wholesaler model", the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said in a post on its website yesterday (October 30).
"Please note that any orders transmitted during this time will not be placed," it added.
"Simplified distribution model"
A spokesperson for GSK explained to C+D that its new distribution model will allow pharmacy contractors to buy from "specific wholesalers" – Alliance, AAH and Phoenix. GSK currently sells direct to pharmacies in the UK.
"We are changing the way we distribute our pharmaceutical medicines and vaccines in the UK to help reduce complexity for our pharmacy, hospital and dispensing doctor customers," the spokesperson said.
"The simplified distribution model means that customers will, from November 1, buy direct from specific wholesalers."
"No right to buy"
Suketu Patel, owner of Widnes Late Night Pharmacy in Cheshire, claimed his pharmacy had not been warned about the distribution interruption, and he was "surprised and shocked" to be told they had "no right to buy" when ordering a GSK product this week.
"We’re a health centre pharmacy [and] our usage of most products is quite high…so [we've] got to keep a minimum amount of stock in.
"If I'd known this was in the pipeline, I would have ordered products in advance for the patients that I know need them." Mr Patel added he was "lucky" to have additional stock to maintain his supply this week.
GSK acknowledges "uncertainty"
However, GSK insisted it had written to all of its "purchasing accounts" and published information on its website "at the start of October". Wholesalers had also informed customers, it added.
"As part of moving over to a new distribution model, we need to complete a number of tasks including stock validation and changes to IT systems," GSK told C+D this afternoon (October 31).
"We understand that any changes to our distribution model can cause uncertainty for customers, which is why we have been actively working with them to manage this process."
Pharmacies "in a majority of locations" that order GSK products from their wholesaler on November 1 can expect delivery later that day, it added.