Gossip about the supply chain can lead to shortages, a major wholesaler has said.

Speaking at the Pharmacy Forward event in Birmingham on 10 June, Sigma Pharmaceutical Plc director Bharat Shah said that the circulation of false information and gossip tends to feed shortage issues.

He also said that Category M reimbursement prices often reflect medicines prices from six months previously.


Lack of transparency


Mr Shah argued that shortages sometimes happen because of a lack of transparency in the system and price increases not being communicated properly.

He told delegates: ‘There’s false information, often gossip, which is a real problem.

‘One issue we have is that when there is gossip that something is going to be short, wholesalers get double stock. In normal circumstances, we sit on about four to six week stocks but sometimes we sell six-weeks of stock in a week.’

Echoing Mr Shah’s comments, Pickford’s Pharmacy Group chief executive and superintendent pharmacist Mukesh Lad told delegates: ‘The supply chain is extremely complex – [there are] too many smokes and mirrors.

‘You have no idea when volatility is going to occur as there’s a lack of information and it’s down to the way our industry is structured.’

The alternative to Category M is a tender system, which ‘we don’t want in this country as [community pharmacists] would only earn a professional fee’, according to Mr Shah.


Collaboration needed


Mr Lad added: ‘There are so many different players in the market. In order to devise a solution, [we need] collaboration between the different parties.

‘At the moment, one party doesn’t know the impact of what they do on the other and as we [pharmacists] are at the end of that chain, we don’t have much power.

‘The only way we can resolve this is through Government’s investment into a consultation looking at all the different places and come up with some proposals in terms of structure.’