“A new survey of hospitals and academic medical centers finds that a recent move by Genentech to switch distribution of three widely used cancer treatments – Avastin, Rituxan and Herceptin – is resulting in higher costs, reduced access to the medications and delays in treating patients. And the institutions are hoping the results will prompt the drug maker, which says it’s unaware of such problems, to revert to its earlier distribution program.
“Here’s the background: Last fall, Genentech began using just a few distributors that specialize in handling such medicines. Until then, the Roche unit used dozens of wholesalers, although the specialty distributors are actually divisions of some of those same wholesalers. Genentech says the change was made to save money, but also make distribution more efficient and prevent the possibility of shortages.
“However, most of the institutions – 93% – say they had not experienced shortages, and the move has disrupted not only their finances, but patient care. The survey also found that 81% say the switch will have a moderate to significant impact on their expenses. Meanwhile, 63% say deliveries have been unreliable and 88% reported a delay in patient treatment because one of the drugs was unavailable.
“The institutions say they are forced to increase inventories to hedge against any supply disruptions that may occur because shipping can take longer, depending upon the location of the distributor. Some institutions say they cannot afford to keep large amounts of drug on hand, which can result in delays in treating new patients or unexpected events. And previous discounts may no longer be available.”