Pharmacists take drug company to court

Pharmacists are taking drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to court over the recall of a blood thinning drug, saying they are bearing the company's expenses in carrying out the work.

Pharmacist Ian Johnson, who owns Johnson's Pharmacy in Otara, south Auckland, and is president of the Pharmacy Guild, served a civil notice of claim on GSK in Manukau District court last week.

The claim is a test case after GSK earlier this year recalled of the blood thinner Marevan. A manufacturing error meant some 3mg tablets had higher doses.

"I accepted that I had a professional duty to safeguard my patients. But I also saw this as GSK, whose medicine this was, asking me in my professional and business capacity to do work for them - necessary and urgent work. I expected that I would be paid reasonable compensation for my work," Mr Johnson said.

He said he invoiced GSK $395.10. The money covered contacting seven patients for an average of 15 minutes each time, the dispensing fee for replacing four patients' Marevan tablets, administration costs, briefing staff, liaising with GPs, internal stock management and GSK paperwork.

GSK has refused to pay the invoice, he said.

Guild chief executive Annabel Young said it was a small amount of money for a significant amount of work.

It had estimated the recall had cost pharmacies about $47 per patient.

"We have tried to sit around the table with GSK to work this out, but have had no luck meeting with them.

"Can a big business, which has to recall potent medicines, request urgent services, take the benefit of the services and then refuse to pay? It is a very serious question and we would welcome a judicial decision on this point of law."

GSK had reimbursed pharmacists for the direct cost of replacement tablets.

GSK New Zealand general manager Geoff McDonald could not be contacted for comment today.

Earlier this year, he said the company had not ruled out compensation and the guild's decision to take legal action was an "overly assertive" step.

Drug regulator Medsafe had no process to guide compensation for pharmacists and GSK was working with government agencies and the industry to create one before making a decision, he said.