A win for pharmacy

gavel court legal

November 1920: Pharmacy has won “one of the most important cases undertaken by pharmacists”

“One of the most important cases undertaken by pharmacists was brought to a successful conclusion in the South Australian Supreme Court on October 29,” the AJP reported in its November 1920 issue.

In June, 1916, the Mount Gambier U.F.S. Dispensary was formed and registered under the Friendly Societies’ Act. Soon after its inception it commenced trading with the public to a limited extent. Later on the business in this direction became more open, and to all intents and purposes the dispensary became an ordinary chemist’s shop. The next development was the use and assumption of the title of chemist.

These two encroachments on the legal rights of pharmacists were brought under the notice of the Directors of Pharmaceutical Defence Limited in early 1917.

PDL decided “rightly that the case was of extreme importance to pharmacists throughout Australia”.

Its legal counsel advised that the only satisfactory course to adopt was to secure the consent of the Attorney-General to act as plaintiff in the case. This took some time, but once it did the case began.

In making its decision the court said: “the Attorney-General… claimed a declaration that the defendant society was exceeding its legal powers and an injunction restraining it from so doing”.

The court said it “could not find the slightest indication in the Friendly Societies Amendment Act, 1910, or any other Friendly Societies Act, of any intention on the part of the Legislature to enable friendly societies to unite for the purpose of providing medical attendance for or dispensing and selling medicines and medical comforts to any person, except those mentioned in section 4 of the Act—the members and specified relatives”.

“The other subject of complaint was that the defendant was carrying on an open chemist’s shop by selling commodities both to persons specified in the Act and to members of the general public. The fact was admitted, but the commodities, it was said, were such as were stocked, sold, and supplied in
the ordinary course of business by pharmaceutical chemists”.

“That was no defence. The society was authorised to sell only medicines and medical and surgical
appliances, requisites, and comforts,” the court ruled.

“An important judgement”

“Every member of the trading community is vitally interested in the important judgment of the South Australian Full Court in the Mount Gambier Dispensary case,” said the AJP editorial

“This action was instituted by Pharmaceutical Defence Limited. The directors of that body felt, when the matter was first brought under their notice, that a vital principle was at stake, seriously affecting the trading, rights of retail traders generally, and they decided, rightly, that no effort should be spared to put a stop to the illegal form of competition that was being carried on.

On the other hand, the dispensary committee, openly and avowedly brushing- aside the safeguards and restrictions imposed under the Friendly Societies Act 1910, determined to continue its policy of trading with, the public. In addition to this, it boldly assumed the title of “chemists,” and in various advertisements and publications adopted the use of that title, notwithstanding the warning that was given that an illegal act was being committed in so doing”.

“Such a challenge to constituted law could not be accepted without a fight”.


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