A community pharmacist has answered the public’s questions on a popular online forum, covering Chemist Warehouse, wages, homeopathy, codeine and more

A pharmacist with five years’ experience under their belt has answered some of the public’s most pressing questions about the industry in Australia.

The pharmacist posted a thread on the Australian forum OzBargain, entitled ‘[AMA] I Am a Community Pharmacist, Ask Me Anything’.

Here are some of the most interesting questions and answers from the thread:

Q: What the hell is a community pharmacist? Never heard the term before.

A: Legal drug dealer.

Q: What is the impact of discount Chemist Warehouse on the industry?

A: Discounted chain impact heavily on other pharmacies, no doubt about that. I have worked in both types of pharmacies before and there are huge differences. A lot of non-discounted pharmacies focus on extra services to make up the loss.

Meanwhile the discounter aims to sell as much items as they can at low profit margin to make profit. Hence, discounter often pay their staffs at lower rate but I have seen other pharmacies pay their staffs minimum wages too.

If I were a patient, I will go to a discounter if I just need to buy 1 or 2 items or find a bargain. Pharmacists there are normally too busy with scripts volume to do anything else. However, if I have complicated health issues, want to spend more time with a health practitioners, service base pharmacy is recommended.

Q: Is Chemist Warehouse and other discount pharmacies putting independent pharmacies out of business?

A: Yes, I feel for those who own those small pharmacies.

Q: Why do we see chemists selling a lot of pseudoscience hyperbole? Alternative medicines, homeopathic medicines and other non-proven therapies?

A: I can’t speak on behalf of every pharmacies on this issue. Pharmacy is a very special health profession because there is retail side to it. I think a lot of stores sell them to increase the traffic. There are still lots of people believe in them. However, I personally do not believe in homeopathy and non-proven supplements.

Whenever people ask me about it I always declare that I do not believe in them (say it quietly so the boss cannot hear). I then proceed with recommending stuffs that I actually have done research on with strong studies to back them up. I am a pharmacist and I want to make sure all of my advices are for patient’s benefit not to push for $$.

There have been a lot of debates over this topic within different pharmacy bodies but I have not seen any significant changes been made.

Q: How much money do you earn in a year?

A: Not as much as a lot of people think. The presence of discounters has brought down the average wage by a lot. $60-90k that’s the range. It will go higher if you work in rural area.

To which another commenter responded: I find this terrible, I actually expected it was more $150-250k. You are giving hundreds of medications out per week, a small percentage of that is if you give the wrong dose or medication you could potentially kill people. I thought the guy in my Chemist Warehouse would be on $150k+ but knowing he’s probably on $60k makes me feel so bad.

Q: Why do I need to wait almost 30 minutes for a prescription medicine when often it is a single item?

A: There are many reasons to it and keep that in mind not all of them apply to every pharmacies.

  1. Some pharmacies purposely do it so you can shop around (mainly discounter because they need to increase basket size due to low profit margin).
  2. They can be reallllllly busy. Sometimes you walk into the store and it seems empty. It does not mean that there are not 10 scripts baskets waiting to be dispensed.
  3. Dispensing is not just about putting label on a box. Next time you visit a pharmacy, politely ask a pharmacist if you can visit the dispensary or see the dispensing procedure. It is actually not as easy as it seems. If you are healthy, not on any medication and present with a single script of antibiotic for example, it should not take too long. However, each medications have a lot of precautions, contraindications, side effects, interaction with other medications. Pharmacists spend most of their time checking for all of that. Sometimes, prescribers make mistakes on the script and pharmacists have to contact them to get it fixed. At the end of they day, we are just trying to keep you healthy.

Q: Why was the pharmacy industry such asses with the codeine issue? I cannot understand how pushing almost all codeine products into a combination with paracetomol was thought of as a good idea. On top of that. Why push people to go to the GP unnecessarily just to get a script for codeine medication? There really didn’t seem to be that much of a problem with it and it seems like an odd place to stick your flag and say this is the line. I never understood the pharmacy groups position on this because it seems like their priority is completely out of touch with reality.

A: Codeine addiction is a massive problem. I have seen a lot of people regret after they hooked on to it.

However, pharmacist wasn’t the people behind pushing it to the script. We actually have a real time monitor program in place while the government still deciding on it. I believe if that software is compulsory for all pharmacies, codeine product can still be available OTC.

Another pharmacist commenter added: It never was the pharmacy industry pushing it to script only. Codeine going on to script only cost the average pharmacy tens of thousands in lost gross profit.

See the full thread here