‘Change pharmacy laws’ petition launched


A Chemist Warehouse storefront. Image: AJP.

New online campaign to “bring discount pharmacies to regional towns” linked to Chemist Warehouse

A new online petition calling for changes to Australian pharmacy laws has been launched.

The website, changepharmacylaws.com.au, lists Chemist Warehouse as an owner, as well as Crocmedia – which describes itself as a “multi-platform content and entertainment group”.

“Help drive the need for change by signing this petition to revise state and federal laws in Australia,” the website reads.

“Bring discount pharmacies to regional towns. Regional residents could be paying up to four times the price for common prescription and over the counter medications compared to the price paid by metropolitan consumers, according to a recent study.”

This echoes Chemist Warehouse’s recently published data from a survey of 325 Victorian country residents, which found two-thirds of respondents had driven to another town to save money when filling scripts, and of these, more than 85% had driven more than 50kms.

A News Corp article at the time argued that people are paying $20 for commonly used medications like cholesterol lowering atorvastatin, which is sold for as little as $6 per script by discount chemist chains.

“In regional towns, current state and federal policies prevent discount pharmacies from establishing an outlet,” the website continues.

“All Australians, regardless of their place of residence, should have access to affordable medicines and not be forced to pay inflated prices by outdated rules which limit consumer choice.

“Help drive the need for change by signing this petition to revise the law so that discount pharmacies can open in your town.”

It then calls for people to sign the petition with their name, email address and postcode.

The Pharmacy Guild declined to comment.

However last month it hit back at the News Corp article, saying it “ignored the benefits of the community pharmacy model, the availability of generic medicines, and the safety net mechanisms of the subsidised medicine scheme, the PBS”.

“The Location Rules have played an important and beneficial part in sustaining the effective network of community pharmacies in Australia – a network which benefit patients wherever they live,” said National President of the Pharmacy Guild, George Tambassis at the time.

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9 Comments

  1. pagophilus
    12/07/2019

    Whatever happened to the investigation into CW’s ownership structure?

    • Tony Lee
      12/07/2019

      A reasonable comment but when compared to the state permissible owner structures that have been manipulated by big money groups there is little difference. The detail is in the dust.
      The original intent/spirit of the law was on pharmacy owned by one pharmacist. This was quickly construed by lawyers acting for the clever money well before CWH muddied the water.

      • M M
        12/07/2019

        Tony, do you remember which CPA allowed changed to ownership structures? Or it was all lawyers doing?

        • Paul Sapardanis
          12/07/2019

          No CPA allowed changes to ownership laws nor has it seem any ownership structure been tested by ANY regulator. ( Note that the NSW branch of the guild and 3 of its members are currently in the NSW supreme court against the Ramsay pharmacy group ). These groups have a gained a great competitive advantage over small independent pharmacies through the failure of the regulators.

        • Tim Hewitt
          15/07/2019

          MM (Do you have a name?).. Ownership structures are NOT the remit of CPA.. that is state government business..and varies from state to state (and territory)..

  2. Tim Hewitt
    12/07/2019

    How do the location rules prevent discount pharmacies opening in regional towns?
    If there is NO pharmacy, they can open one..(fat chance)..
    If there is a pharmacy, they can either buy it one or open up within distance criteria.. just like everyone else..
    the proposition is based on a lie.. why doesn’t anyone (else) say that?

  3. Still a Pharmacist
    13/07/2019

    Australia is a Communist Country when it comes to pharmacy industry location rules. The ownership rule is also a communist decree with capitalistic flavour.

    But when you want to put a cap on number of scripts dispensed by a pharmacy in terms of receiving medicare money, Australia becomes a pure capitalist country.

    I remember discussing with one senior pharmacist about this. My proposal was to put such a cap e.g. a pharmacy will receive no medicare money after dispensing 150 PBS scripts a day. It will save small pharmacies and will not allow discounters to become too big. But it was instantly rejected.

    He told me that the Govt can not dictate pharmacy owners how many scripts they can dispense a day and it should be decided by the market mechanism. So Australia a capitalistic country again.

    You talk to Pharmacy Guild and they will tell that because of location rules, rural Australia is getting pharmacy service, this is pure lie.

    Rural pharmacies are surviving because of Rural Pharmacy Maintenance Allowance (RPMA). If you abolish the RPMA keeping the location rule in place, a lot of rural pharmacies will stop their operation.

    On the other hand, if you abolish the location rule and increase the RPMA to a minimum of basic wage of a pharmacist, many new pharmacies will open their service in rural area. And it can be done by taking some fund from vague Clinical intervention and dodgy Medchecks.

    You don’t need to be a Nostradamus to tell that Guild will oppose it.

    • Anthony Tassone
      16/07/2019

      Still a pharmacist

      The Pharmacy Guild has never stated that it is solely due to pharmacy location rules that has enabled establishment or ongoing operation and sustainability of community pharmacies in rural locations.

      The Rural Pharmacy Maintenance Allowance (RPMA) is a very important component for ensuring the maintenance of ongoing services from pharmacy in some rural locations. Both are important and both have been as a result of collaboration and negotiation between the Guild and the Federal government.

      In saying that, the quantum of payments under the RPMA are correlated to the PhARIA (Pharmacy Remote Index of Australia). PhARIA has become not fit for purpose in some areas and there is an urgent need to re-assess whether pharmacy should be aligned to other comparable models used for other professions (e.g. Modified Monash Model for general practice). PhARIA produces increasingly frequent bizarre outcomes such as Mildura on the border of NSW and Victoria being a ‘PhARIA 1’ which is equivalent to metropolitan Melbourne.

      So whilst RPMA is very important in the overall fabric of our community pharmacy system in rural Australia, the index itself PhARIA has some inherent issues that means the location rules cannot be discounted for their importance in promoting equity of access to PBS medicines for the Australian public.

      Anthony Tassone
      President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)

  4. M M
    15/07/2019

    I think the petition website should be redesigned to be more appealing, it should have more information and data on the impact of the current regulations and how they affect our patients and accessability of medicines etc.

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