Pharmacists up in arms over cut-price drugs plan

The National Pharmaceutical Association (NPA) – the voice of independent pharmacists – is making a strong protest to the Government over retailers such as Boots and Tesco offering two-for-one deals on over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, including cough and cold remedies and indigestion tablets.

NPA director of pharmacy practice, Colette McCreedy, says: “It gives the wrong signals to consumers, and the NPA opposes that. These deals mean that consumers are asked to buy OTC medicines in bulk, and that is unacceptable. The NPA accepts the fact that the resale price maintenance (RPM) law no longer exists, but it does not accept the increase in unit sales through two-for-one deals on OTC medicines.”

The RPM law, which gave manufacturers the right to set minimum prices for OTC products, was last year scrapped by the Restrictive Practices Court (MW May 17, 2001). Its removal was good news for retailers, which now sell branded medicines and vitamins at much lower prices, run price promotions and bulk offers.

Retailers, including Boots, Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, announced up to 50 per cent reductions in the price of branded OTC medicines shortly after the court ruling (MW May 24, 2001). At the time, analysts predicted that retailers would reap huge profits from the sale of OTC medicines – a high-margin business estimated to be worth &£1.5bn a year in the UK.

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