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Actavis may move Bulgarian pharmacy franchise into new markets

Actavis Group hf, the Icelandic generic-drug maker, may expand its Bulgarian pharmacy franchise, Pharma Expert, to other European countries to reap greater profit from the marketing of its products.

Actavis, based near Iceland\'s capital Reykjavik, is eyeing countries that allow corporate ownership of pharmacies such as Hungary, CEO Robert Wessman said in a December 7 interview. Hungary will ease restrictions on pharmacy ownership January 1. Actavis makes about 18 billion tablets a year, and wants to control more of its market by becoming its own supplier, wholesaler and retailer. The company started the Pharma Expert brand in Bulgaria last September and now has franchise agreements with more than 90 pharmacy owners, Wessman said. „We might roll it out in other countries,” he said. „It\'s part of our approach to control the value chain from active pharmaceutical ingredients to the end.” Bulgarian pharmacists who have switched to Pharma Expert get design and logos in return for an unspecified payment, Wessman said. They also give preferences to drugs distributed by Higia EAD, which Actavis purchased in 2005, he said.

Retailers including Tesco Plc have expressed interest in opening pharmacy chains in Hungary once the restrictions on ownership are lifted. The entry of low-cost Tesco into Britain\'s pharmacy market prompted drug retailers Boots Group Plc and Alliance Unichem Plc to merge last July in order to cut costs. The key to running a pharmacy chain is having access to a strong network of drug wholesalers, said Christopher Gower, a Man Securities retail analyst in London. „The food retailers don\'t have that,” he said. Actavis owns distributors in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia, company spokesman Halldor Kristmannsson said in an e-mailed statement. „We have not made any decisions on expanding our distribution business to other countries,” he said. (Bloomberg)