By Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA
The shortage of Ranbaxy’s valacyclovir (generic Valtrex) continues and more people are looking for information about it, judging by Internet search engine traffic to The Dose. So, here’s an update on the situation to hopefully give some answers to those affected by the shortage.
Ranbaxy responded to NCPA’s letter, saying it is not selling the drug only to large, publicly traded pharmacy chains. “Ranbaxy is supplying all chains within its direct buying trade of class, which includes non-publicly traded and/or small chains,” the letter reads. There was no mention of independent pharmacies and no listing of which pharmacy chains fall within the company’s “direct buying trade of class.”
While the company attributes the valacyclovir supply problems to a lack of the active pharmaceutical ingredient, the flood of comments into NCPA indicate that the shortage has disproportionately affected independent pharmacies and their patients, compared to large, publicly traded chains. Ranbaxy’s letter does not dispel the notion that independents have been an afterthought in the company’s distribution decisions. That’s unfortunate because, among other reasons, independents are the sole providers in a number of communities.
As the first generic manufacturer to bring a Valtrex equivalent to market, Ranbaxy enjoys a 180-day exclusivity period. That lapses in May, and perhaps the situation for independents may improve then.
NCPA is taking the lessons of this experience to Washington. We’ve alerted House and Senate Congressional offices as well as the relevant regulatory agencies. We’re hopeful that legislation will be introduced to make sure that generic manufacturers appropriately use the market power given to them during the exclusivity period; conditioning that 180-day exclusivity on equal distribution of the generic to the entire retail community pharmacy market seems like a reasonable requirement to us.