Asda pleads pharmacy deregulation case

Asda is making the case for deregulation of the pharmacy market by becoming the only supermarket to present to the Commons committee considering the move.

The retailer is promising to deliver competitively priced OTC (over-the-counter)medicines and a community service.

Asda's superintendent pharmacist John Evans was expected to present to the Health select committee on the OFT Community Pharmacy report yesterday (Thursday).

Other witnesses included National Pharmaceutical Association chief executive John D'Arcy and Sue Sharpe, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.

Asda has 81 pharmacies and says it is the number one service requested by customers. A spokesman countered claims that 3,000 pharmacies would close if the market was deregulated. He said growth in the sector had been 'stifled' by regulation and in-store pharmacies would offer lower-priced medicines.

Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Patricia Hewitt favours opening the market and improving access, but without diminishing the community role of pharmacies.

The DTI will deliver a progress report in June.