Is pharmacy set for taxi-style deregulation?

Pharmacist Steve Flavel says the profession needs to change its approach to ownership regulations before the landscape changes around it

The Parliamentary Inquiry into Community Pharmacy ownership has found several ‘grey areas’ where it is clear that many pharmacy owners are exploiting the system, having pecuniary interests in more than the legally permitted number of pharmacies in each state, hidden carefully by complex corporate structures and trusts.

I’m not just talking large corporate pharmacies, but potentially every pharmacy owner who is deliberately blurring the lines of their pharmacy ownership with corporate / trust structures that they are invested, which appears most common than in the realm of marketing groups. 

Could it be that the very marketing groups that we thought would save us and allow us to compete with the other marketing groups down the road at the very heart of what is killing this industry?

Personally, the answer I have come to believe each time I see the catalogues, the discount signs and the claims of 50%, 60% off, who in their right mind could think anything but a resounding of course it bloody well is. Each and every one of these marketing groups are directly profiting from the marketing, the sales, the bulk buys and the ‘clipping of the ticket’ for each deal they have negotiated for their members yet pass through their pockets on the way. If that’s not the case, why then are these groups posting record increases in revenue each year? 

Community pharmacy in Australia has reached a point of crossroads as to our future. Either we as pharmacy owners support the initiative of the Parliamentary Inquiry and accept our responsibilities of pharmacy ownership ensuring we have no more pharmacies than what can allow us to be present with our finger on the pulse of each pharmacy we have an interest in or we face the very real risk of watering down the very rules we have been striving so hard to protect for so many years.

With pharmacy owners hiding behind corporate trusts especially those aided by certain marketing groups none of us can be surprised if we find our industry and profession going down the same path as what has happened to the Taxi industry.

It’s time to take a hard look at ourselves and what we want pharmacy as a future to be in this country. 

To save their own industry, some pharmacy owners might just have to tow the line and trim their level of interests in a potentially excessive number of pharmacies.

Is that not a small price to pay for genuine integrity in this industry? Do we want pharmacist only ownership or not? Do we want our future to be in our hands or in corporate hands? Do we want to answer to a board of directors or do want to answer to ourselves as professional pharmacy owners working in our own community pharmacies as we should be? 

The choice is ours to make today. At this crossroads of pharmacy ownership future, now is the time to support the initiative of the Parliamentary Inquiry and actually enforce the rules we have fought so many years to have in effect. 

Steve Flavel is founder of the Independent Pharmacies of Australia

Join his facebook group and get involved in the discussions. It’s exclusively for Pharmacy owners  

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  1. Jim Tsaoucis

    Years ago the Government culled pharmacy numbers with a buy out scheme which was funded by the remaining pharmacies over the next x number of years via a “levy” in the NHS remuneration. Pharmacy owners hence have already been shafted once. The current ownership rules again are a blatant shafting of the industry from within. If it is so obvious then WHY hasn’t it been rectified??? Either bring back the staus quo or let it run amuck, but hide the pretend “rules” which are just manipulated by those who have the $$$’s to do so.

  2. Andrew

    It’s going to be drones. Pharmacy has low weight, low risk cargo – perfectly suited for air delivery.

    The retail side of the business can’t survive that.


    Article of the year. Pharmacists should read this because it’s true. Well done Steve for highlighting such an inherent, malignant but seldom discussed issue. Proxy ownership needs to be thoroughly scrutinised – there are pharmacists using ‘proxy pharmacists’ to own multiple pharmacies – well beyond their allowance. Franchises need to be scrutinised too.
    Only those few with the connections and capital are able to exploit these rules (and even bend them) to their financial advantage.

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