‘They have never had to establish they provide a public benefit.’

Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie has queried the Pharmacy Guild’s influence over politicians and likened it to the alcohol industry or the NRA

In an opinion piece in Pro Bono Australia, Mr Crosbie writes in support of charities which attempt to influence public policy.

“If charities want to retain the ability to engage in advocacy, they will have to push back against those who believe participation in the public contest of ideas should be restricted to the rich and powerful,” he writes.

Mr Crosbie suggests that some members of Government believe charities which engage in advocacy do not deserve community support or concessions from Government.

“My experience is that political advocacy in Australia is dominated by those with the money and power to get what they want from politicians,” he says.

“Charities rarely breathe the rarefied air of sumptuous dinners, expensive wines and late night personal chats with our political leaders.

“It is no accident that when the alcohol industry or the Pharmacy Guild or the Minerals Council of Australia or Clubs Australia ask for something, politicians take notice.

“Like the NRA in the US, these groups advocate self-serving policies.

“They have never had to establish they provide a public benefit, yet all their expenditure on lobbying – estimated at over $1 billion each year in Australia – is written off as a tax-free investment.”

It’s the second time Mr Crosbie has criticised the Pharmacy Guild of late.

During a Senate Inquiry into political influence last month, he cited the case of the codeine upschedule.

“I suppose the most powerful lobby group, according to one survey in Canberra, is the Pharmacy Guild of Australia,” he told the Inquiry.

“This government gives the Pharmacy Guild, as the previous government and the government before that did, at least $4 billion a year.

“At present, I understand there’s a dispute about the up-scheduling of codeine. There has been a rapid increase in the number of deaths associated with codeine.

“Every college and consumer health forum—groups like Painaustralia—is supporting the up-scheduling. It will mean that pharmacists make less money.

“So the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, which has hundreds of millions of dollars in its fighting fund, is wining and dining health ministers around the country, pushing to get an exception that would allow its members to effectively prescribe codeine over the counter.

“It’s a brave politician who would take on the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.”

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild said the mention of the Guild in the Pro Bono piece seemed “a quite irrelevant reference”.

It is certainly the first time on record that the Pharmacy Guild has been likened to the US National Rifle Association!

I fear the author might be over-thinking it.”

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  1. Michael Khoo

    The Guild hasn’t ever had to prove a public benefit, much like the AMA or any other advocacy group. The guild is accountable to its members, the thousands of small community pharmacy owners who have invested billions of dollars into the public health system.

    It would be insane to question the public benefit of community pharmacy, although free market libertarian economists are just about crazy enough to do so.

    The Guild has saved various governments from making decisions that in hindsight seemed to verge on lunacy, for example, allowing Australia’s biggest gambling company, who also makes billions from the sale of alcohol and cigarettes to operate pharmacies. I humbly suggest that the lobbyists that represent the big supermarkets are the ones that need to prove their public health credentials.

  2. PharmOwner

    If the Guild was such a successful lobby group, pharmacy would be a more viable profession and investment for all pharmacists

  3. Lydia Gaidell

    Supermarkets can argue they offer public health benefit by increasing the access, availability and affordability of medicines. However, one element that is lacking in this dialogue is the issue of a conflict of interest… Profit motive vs real health benefit…and possible harm to the greater public good. The Pharmacy Guild as a lobbying group has achieved some credibility in preventing big business groups (such as gambling companies) from having the legal right to own and operate pharmacies. The Guild should lobby for more laws to protect pharmacists in the wider marketplace where the clinical governance of the pharmacist to act ethically can be imposed upon by big business owners (employers) with profit seeking mindsets. This is particularly important in light of the fact that big retail supermarket chains are seeking access to own and operate pharmacies in Australia. Law needs to be in place to protect the pharmacist in exercising clinical governance. This conflict of interest in healthcare can also be applied to doctors in their communications with pharmaceutical companies and where many GPs are employed by large medical centre companies with profit seeking motifs.

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