British watchdog begins drug supply probe after controversial Pfizer deal
Britain''s government competition watchdog began an investigation into the supply of medicines across the country after Pfizer Inc. signed a deal to sell its prescription drugs through a single wholesaler, the Associated Press reports. New York-based Pfizer broke with the tradition of distributing drugs through competing wholesalers last month when it began selling products solely through UniChem, the wholesaling division of Alliance Boots PLC. The controversial move prompted eight rival wholesalers to make an unsuccessful attempt through the British courts to stop the exclusive deal. The government''s Office of Fair Trading said its investigation would consider the impact of the arrangement on competition in the drug sector, on the national health service, and on patients. Pfizer has a 15-percent market share of all British drug sales and has been progressively focusing its operations on prescription drugs, a move that saw it sell off its consumer health care brands last year. Alliance Boots, which is the subject of a 10.1 billion pound (US$19.8 billion; euro14.8 billion) takeover approach from a private equity consortium and its own deputy chairman, also said the inquiry would not affect its current deal with Pfizer.