The Competition Policy Review has recommended the removal of current restrictions on pharmacy ownership and location.
These rules are unnecessary for ensuring quality of advice and care for patients, and limit consumers’ ability to choose where to get their pharmacy products and services. They also limit providers’ ability to meet consumer preferences, the Review has found.
And negotiations on the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement, currently underway, are an opportunity for the Government to relax the restrictions, it says.
“The Panel considers that the pharmacy ownership and location rules should be removed in the long‑term interests of consumers,” the Review states.
“They should be replaced with regulations to ensure access to medicines and quality of advice regarding their use that do not unduly restrict competition.
“Negotiations on the next Community Pharmacy Agreement offer an opportunity for the Australian Government to implement a further targeted relaxation of the location rules, as part of a transition towards their eventual removal.
“If changes during the initial years of the new agreement prove too precipitate, there should be provision for a mid‑term review to incorporate easing of the location rules later in the life of the next Community Pharmacy Agreement.”
The Review says a range of alternative mechanisms exists to secure access to medicines that are less restrictive of competition among pharmacy service services providers.
“In particular, tendering for the provision of pharmacy services in underserved locations and/or funding through a community service obligation should be considered,” it says.
“The rules targeted at pharmacies in urban areas should continue to be eased at the same time that alternative mechanisms are established to address specific issues concerning access to pharmacies in rural locations.”