Discount war over analgesics

February 1971: AJP warns against treating analgesics as ‘cut-price food’ as supermarket price war resumes  

Pharmacists in early 1971 were being advised to educate the public on the dangers of treating analgesics as ‘cut-price food’ as a supermarket discount ‘war’ raged.

A look back at the February 1971 AJP reveals the concern and “anger to see these potent and controversial drugs peddled to suburban housewives in this irresponsible manner”.

A “very public supermarket discount ‘war’ which blossomed in the three biggest states last month saw a re-emergence of cut-price aspirin promotions,” the AJP reported.

“Aspro 25’s were marked down to 19c and 20c—and in Adelaide, where there was not supposed to be a discount war going on, Tom the Cheap special led them at 15c.

The lowest price observed in Sydney press advertisements was 19c, a cent dearer than the specialled price in late 1969, when the chains first broke analgesic price maintenance.

The most blatant of the analgesics promotions were in Melbourne, where every chain featured discounted retail prices, with pictures”.

“We have always known that the unqualified checkout girl and the promoted salesman regard analgesics as just another food line, to be treated accordingly,” the AJP editorial said (somewhat patronisingly).

“We know, too, that the more this feeling is spread about in the community at large (via press advertisements, for instance), the harder becomes the important task of persuading the public… that analgesics need to be treated with great respect”.

“The difficulty is compounded by certain open-selling manufacturers of analgesics who are currently broadcasting alluring, “soft-sell” radio commercials which persuade the listener that Product X is utterly safe, reliable and desirable”.

“Will analgesic abuse ever be halted? Or even slightly reduced?,” the editorial pondered, before answering that “in the light of current happenings, the answer is clearly ‘No’.

Meanwhile, there were also concerns that membership fees of the Pharmaceutical Society of NSW were set to rise as the NSW government planned to redevelop The Rocks where its home base – Science House – was located, forcing the society to look for a higher-rent home.

“At present, the Society enjoys very low rental, enabling it to provide services to members at minimal
cost. If the Society is forced to leave the building and pay high rent for other premises, membership fees may rise”.

The Society had been at Science House since 1933.

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