Stick with the locals

Bleed for Australia, donors in green and gold with inflatable kangaroo waving flags

Keep out the overseas giants, most Australian pharmacists believe

Most Australian pharmacists support current ownership rules prohibiting ownership by overseas chains, though a substantial minority are open to the move, a new poll reveals.

An AJP poll found that, of 259 readers who voted on the question ‘Should international chains like Boots and Walgreens be allowed to open and operate pharmacies in Australia?’ 67% opted for ‘never’.

However one quarter did favour opening up Australian ownership regulations to allow the international into the country.

A spokesperson said the Pharmacy Guild of Australia welcomed “majority support for the current ownership model”.

“The Australian pharmacy market serves consumers well and is highly competitive, despite myths peddled by some opponents. There is no sound basis on which to imagine that Australian health care consumers would be better served by pharmacies beholden to overseas shareholders of foreign corporate entities”.

The poll follows Fairfax media reports that the global Walgreen Boots Alliance was eyeing off the Australian market.

Alliance global brands president Ken Murphy, who was visiting Australia to speak at a retail industry conference, said the group would ideally like to open company-owned Boots pharmacies in Australia, but was prevented from doing so by ownership regulations.

To justify the investment of starting up in Australia he said they would need to establish their own chain.

“We’d be happy to do that by acquiring pharmacies but we’d have to have the legal permission to do so,” he said.

The Guild spokesperson described the reports as being little more than “idle musings” given current corporate ownership regulations.

And the Guild would fight to retain these regulations for the benefit of Australian consumers and for the viability of the industry, the spokesperson said.

There was little desire for overseas corporate players to enter the market, even among proponents of pharmacy deregulation, the Guild believed.

“That’s a reflection of the level of competition already in the Australian market.”

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