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12 April 2007

No Scan For OAP After Delay Over Drug - Press & Journal

by Jamie Buchan, Press & Journal

A Sick north-east pensioner had to scrap a crucial hospital appointment after a delay getting his medication.

The Banff man, who is in his 70s, needed an emergency scan at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary when it was feared his deep-vein thrombosis had worsened.

Doctors told him that before the check could proceed, he needed a pre-scan injection of dalteparin sodium, or Fragmin.

But because of a change in the way medicine is distributed to pharmacists across the country, he found it was impossible for him to get the injection in time for the scan the next day and he was forced to scrap his appointment.

It is one of a number of similar cases which have come to light following global drugs firm Pfizer's decision to review its distribution system.

The company's medicines are now sent out to pharmacies, hospitals and doctors exclusively by UniChem, which has no distribution depots north of Livingston in West Lothian.

This means that ordering deadlines for chemists in the north-east have been brought forward from 1pm to about 10am.

Earlier this month, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) revealed it had launched an inquiry into the cost implications of the Pfizer move for patients and the NHS.

Banff pharmacist Bruce Scott, who served the unnamed local pensioner, said: "A few months ago it would have been easy to get Fragmin for this gentlemen the next morning from a depot in Aberdeen.

"But when I phoned UniChem I was just told there was no way they could get it to us in time. They couldn't make any special arrangements and his scan had to be scrapped."

Mr Scott's example has been highlighted - alongside the experiences of other pharmacists across the country - by rival pharmaceutical firm AAH, which is based in Coventry.

The firm has collected complaints about the new arrangements from UK chemists and has passed them on to health ministers and politicians.

North-east Holyrood hopeful Stewart Stevenson visited pharmacies in his constituency to check out the situation.

He said last night: "This case at Banff is exactly the sort of problem that pharmacists flagged up with me and which Pfizer were told repeatedly would be an inevitable consequence of their new system."

Pfizer is the world's largest drugs company and supplies about 10% of the UK's total medicine market.

A spokeswoman for Pfizer said the new arrangements would counter the current "vulnerability" of the medicine supply chain in Britain.

She said that last year there were three separate cases of counterfeit drugs found and gangs had targeted the supply chain. New jobs have also been created at the UniChem depot at Livingston to handle the new arrangements.

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