Amazon on the move

A Guild leader says the organisation will do “whatever it takes” to defend the current pharmacy model, as Amazon applies for another health trademark

Amazon has reportedly filed an application for the “BasicCare” trademark in Australia, which would apply to a range of over-the-counter medicines it owns.

Currently, Australians can buy other brands of some OTCs from Amazon’s local website.

The application for this trademark was filed just days before the Pharmacy Guild is due to lodge its statement of grounds for its opposition to the “Amazon Pharmacy” trademark, which was applied for earlier this year.

The Guild has until June 4 to lodge its statement of grounds and particulars.

Its Victorian branch president, Anthony Tassone, told the AJP that it will strongly oppose Amazon’s application for the Amazon Pharmacy trademark, and will continue to argue for pharmacist-only ownership.

“The pharmacist owned model of pharmacies in Australia has done and continues to serve the Australian community very well and particularly so during the recent challenges of the bushfire crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Tassone said.

“Community pharmacies across Australia kept their doors open and turned up every day and were there for their patients and communities – and the pharmacist owned ownership model was a big contributor to this.

“The Australian public trust their local pharmacist, are satisfied with the service they receive from their local pharmacy and are open to community pharmacies having a greater role in healthcare – particularly seen with a record number of flu vaccinations delivered by pharmacies this year.”

He said that in previous consumer surveys, Australians have shown a “clear” preference for health professionals owning their own practices.

Mr Tassone said the Guild was not opposed to change, but opposed to change in the ownership rules.

“COVID-19 has forced many businesses to innovate, adapt and change – with community pharmacy being no exception,” he said.

“More and more pharmacies are expanding their home delivery services for patients, having greater patient engagement through the use of technology which will only continue with the introduction of e-prescriptions. 

“Pharmacists are accountable to patients and our regulatory board, the Pharmacy Board of Australia through our registration – while publicly listed companies and corporates are accountable to their shareholders first and foremost.

“For all of these reasons, the Guild will do whatever it takes to defend a world class community pharmacy model that has served patients so well for so long.

“Over 4000 individual pharmacists having an ownership interest in the approximately 5,700 community pharmacy network in Australia makes for a very competitive landscape in the delivery of medicines, health products and services,” Mr Tassone said.

He noted that in the United States, class action law suits are being filed against Amazon including a suit in the U.S District of Washington which alleges that: “Amazon has obtained monopoly power in the US retail e-commerce market, as demonstrated by its power to set the prevailing prices of the vast majority of consumer goods offered for sale on the internet and that it exercises extraordinary control over millions of its online retail competitors.”

Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, iNews reports that the online giant’s application for the name Amazon Pharmacy, filed with the Intellectual Property Office in January, has now reached the status of “application published”.

This means that the UK trademark could be registered as early as July, depending whether stakeholders take advantage of an up to three-month window in which it can be challenged.

A 2017 AJP poll found that most respondents (39%) did not support Amazon entering the pharmacy arena in Australia, and a further 24% said that Amazon is wholly incompatible with pharmacy as a sector.

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