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Pharmaceuticals Hit the Internet Auction Block

Katherine M. Bennett

The gavel went down in December on the first auction of pharmaceuticals at an Internet site. proposes to give licensed health care providers in various practice settings a way to buy specialty pharmaceuticals and other items at "competitive market prices," according to ASD Specialty Healthcare, Inc., a subsidiary of Bergen Brunswig Corp. 

The site follows the rules of the English auction bid system with the product going to the highest bidder. Sellers set the opening bid for a product, such as a nonreturnable 12-bottle case of generic 200-mg acyclovir capsules, 100 capsules per bottle, with 11-month dating. ASD said that an auction typically last eight hours. Pharmabid sends the winning bidder an e-mail message confirming the buy and explaining the time frame for shipment, which is immediate. Details are posted at the site. 

ASD said that the auction site offers about 50 products daily. A check during the site's first week of operation revealed the following products among the items up for bid: a 50-vial case of hepatitis B vaccine for pediatric use; a 15-vial pack of immune globulin for intramuscular use; and a 29-box case of small, low-protein, nonsterile latex examination gloves, 100 gloves per box. None of these items could be returned after purchase. 

Officials from ASD and ASHP met in December during the Midyear Clinical Meeting to clarify several issues. ASD offered the following information: 

  • Pharmabid is a secondary way to purchase specialty products. The site will initially focus on offering products that are short-dated, not returnable to the manufacturer, overstocked, and oversupplied. 
  • ASD plans to produce a catalog of all the specialty products listed on the site, allowing purchases outside of the auctions. (Pharmabid already sells its items at current market prices to buyers who do not want to bid or wait for an item to go up for bid.) 
  • ASD will not consider artificially inflating the price of products or holding products until they are in short supply. 
  • If no bid exceeds the opening price set by the seller, then the product will go to the initial bidder at that price.

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