NSW guild president slams comments that pharmacies are not competitive, adding the current system benefits the big discounters
The community pharmacy “pile-on” during the current negotiations for the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement has been “disgusting to witnesses in terms of the complete untruths and distortions by some very high-profile people,” says NSW Guild president David Heffernan in his latest bulletin.
He refers to comments made by people such as Graeme Samuel, the former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, who has been frequently featured in mainstream media calling for deregulation and criticising the community pharmacy sector for lack of competition.
Mr Heffernan says it’s all part of “pharmacy bashing season” related to the agreement negotiations.
“For anyone to infer 6000 different businesses as less competition than the consolidation to just a few is a gross contradiction,” he says.
“The current PBS pricing structure leans towards benefiting the big discounters through cross-subsidisation between PBS concession and under co-payment scripts.
“I would be of the mind that a system that has the long-term consequence of reducing completion which is not for the benefit of patients is something the ACCC would be interested in,” adds Mr Heffernan.
Just this past week, Mr Samuel claimed some patients were paying five times more for standard antibiotics at community pharmacies than in discount pharmacies.
“If you go into a town and there’s one coffee shop and because of a lack of competition they charge $15 for a cup of coffee you’d be pretty outraged,” he said.
“Yet because of these contracts between the Pharmacy Guild and the Federal Government that’s the case for pharmaceuticals.”
Mr Samuel said several recent reviews into pharmacy have shown consumers are “paying the price for the lack of competition” in pharmacy.
Mr Heffernan also criticised the 60-day dispensing proposal, stating it will be the aged care sector that will be most impacted by the decision.
“DAA services are crucial to the functionality of aged care medication management. Yet they are labour intensive and are increasingly offering a zero-net return on the service,” he says in the bulletin.
“More and more, I hear of members dropping out of their local aged care facilities as they see zero or negative returns in the service.
“There is no doubt if the 60-day dual list of the PBS goes ahead, the costs will be moved onto the nursing home patients and facilities,” says Mr Heffernan.
“The aged who reside in Australia’s institutions represent the most vulnerable in healthcare. They are often burdened with financial pressures and costly residential bills.
“The policy has the extra impact of relegating into even greater socio-economic burdens.”