Thursday 8 December 2016

Chemists investigated over claim of conspiracy to block competitors

Published 23/05/2015 | 02:30

Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar
Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar

A major investigation into suspicion that a group of pharmacists were conspiring to try and block competitors out of the market is underway.

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A chain of emails suggest that some members of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) wanted to "drum up" guidelines to stop a pharmacist from using a courier service to deliver medicines to customers' homes.

They proposed "wrapping up the concept of delivery services in a mire of guideline requirements".

The emails passed between a number of members of the PSI after a pharmacy set up a mail delivery service for customers in April of last year.

The move led to a panicked reaction among some elected members of the PSI.

One of the PSI members involved in an email exchange on April 8 last year said: "So for the next session maybe (a PSI member) and his unit could drum up such guidelines ... nip this in the bud before it gets away from us..."

Another email from a different PSI member said they were "extremely concerned" by the new service, adding that it "is a huge patient safety issue".

"What is to stop us specifying some mythical safe that needs to be in the vans," the person wrote.

The emails were copied to an official in the body who immediately alerted senior staff.

A PSI meeting was held in April 24 and a number of PSI members resigned for personal reasons and in the body's best interest.

These details are set out in an administrative review commissioned by the regulator and carried out by senior counsel Felix McEnroy.

This report has now been sent by the PSI registrar to Health Minister Leo Varadkar and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

A spokeswoman for the commission confirmed to the Irish Independent that it is conducting an investigation into "alleged anti-competitive behaviour in the pharmaceutical industry".

In his report, Mr McEnroy who received co-operation from all involved, said some council members had met in the private members St Stephen's Green Hibernian Club in Dublin before the crunch Council meeting.

He said he was satisfied with accounts by members that was a social gathering and "no improper" discussion took place.

Misleading

His report said the emails represented a "very serious state of affairs" for the regulatory body but he praised the way official working for the PSI dealt with the matter.

He said his review suggested no breach of competition law took place. But in submissions to the draft review one member accused it of creating a false and misleading "conspiracy" by pharmacists.

The email exchange over 40 minutes allow no such time for "nefarious" planning by pharmacists, said the member.

Irish Independent

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