Do we need a federal pharmacy law?


September 1920, and one of the biggest items of discussion in the AJP is whether it is desirable for Australia to have a federal pharmacy law

“Within the next few months a Commonwealth Convention is to be elected to overhaul the present Constitution,” said the lead article of the September 1920 edition of AJP.

“Australian pharmacists before then will have to make up their minds whether they intend asking for
Federal legislation dealing with pharmacy. At present health, poisons, and pharmacy legislation is outside the ambit of the Federal domain.

Without doubt a strong effort will be made in Commonwealth Governmental circles to enlarge the sphere of Federal Parliamentary action by transferring the power to legislate in these matters from the State Parliaments to the Commonwealth.

Therefore it is high time to consider whether such a change is likely to be in the best interests of pharmacy or not.”

There had been a number of arguments over the previous ten years advocating uniform health and pure food laws as being “eminently desirable in the best interests of the nation”, the article said.

“Manufacturers will be found strongly supporting any movement in this direction. It is also probable that the Australian branches of the B.M.A. [British Medical Association] would welcome a Federal Medical Act”.

The author doubted the benefit of a federal law to the interests of many within pharmacy, and said the current system had not been proved to be insufficient.

“In the main it is admitted that the State Parliaments have not been averse to giving pharmacists
a useful modicum of protection. What would happen in the event of Federal control cannot be forecasted,” the article said.

“We are inclined to think that pharmacy has very little to gain by transference. First of all, there is the danger of reopening the registers to unexamined men; secondly, there are big vested interests that would be certain to try and mould legislation to suit their particular purpose; and, thirdly, in any form of centralised control there would be irritating delays, plenty of pin-pricks, and a plethora of red tape”.

Meanwhile, AJP columnist ‘The Philistine’ called for action to restrict medicine sales to pharmacies only, arguing this would promote the availability and profitability of pharmacies in country towns.

“….there are scores of towns that should have a pharmacy, and would have one if the sale of medicines were restricted to the pharmacist,” said ‘The Philistine’.

“You have an intimate knowledge of drugs, chemicals, poisons, antidotes, and other matters relevant
to your profession. We will allow you to open a pharmacy, and you can dispense doctors’ prescriptions and sell poisons. But if the doctor likes he can also dispense, although we only teach him the barest rudiments of the art, and any Tom, Dick and Harry can sell dangerous drugs and medicines.

“What practical methods are open to effect the change? How far advanced is public opinion on the subject? Would grocers and storekeepers confer with pharmacists?”

“‘The Philistine’ would welcome a round table discussion on the subject”.

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