July 30, 2007 / 10:47 AM / 12 years ago

Sanofi to sell drugs through 3 suppliers in UK

(Corrects to remove reference to new system replacing indirect supply)

LONDON, July 27 (Reuters) - France’s Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA) has announced a new distribution arrangement for its medicines in Britain, opting for a restricted network of suppliers.

From November 1, Sanofi drugs will be distributed only through AAH, Phoenix and UniChem — a move that Sanofi said would improve supply chain efficiency and integrity.

AAH is a unit of Germany’s Celesio CLSGn.DE, while UniChem is the wholesaling division of Alliance Boots.

The new system replaces one of using a number of additional smaller wholesalers.

Moves to reduce the number of suppliers are controversial and have been opposed by independent wholesalers, who argue they stifle competition. Britain’s consumer affairs watchdog, the Office of Fair Trading, said in April it would investigate the market for distributing medicines in the wake of an initial move by Pfizer (PFE.N) to use only UniChem.

Pfizer says it needs its new scheme to ensure secure supplies and stamp out counterfeits. But critics say the real aim is to fight parallel trade — the legal practice in Europe of importing medicines for resale into places like Britain from countries in southern Europe where prices are lower.

((Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by Quentin Bryar, Paul Bolding; email: ben.hirschler@reuters.com; Reuters Messaging: ben.hirschler.reuters.com@reuters.net; +44 20 7542 5082)) Keywords: SANOFI BRITAIN/

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