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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9 Comments

  1. Bill
    15/03/2016

    Oh Please! the 67% who voted “NEVER” are all pharmacy owners on 6 figure salary, who do not want to compete or lose business. The majority of pharmacists are just employees living on 60K a year (if that), which i think is a Joke, a bus driver makes more than that and they didn’t need to spend 4 years at uni and 1 year internship. At least, pharmacy giants like Boost will stimulate the economy, creates jobs, and most importantly pay pharmacists salary that they truly deserve. i am a pharmacist, and I support and welcome Boots and any overseas successful pharmacy models for that matter, to open pharmacies here in Australia, and i ll be more than happy to work with them. I believe that Australian pharmacists deserve recognition for their hard work and efforts by employers (both local or foreign) that recognizes hard working individuals. i have been in pharmacy long enough to know that unfortunately our local pharmacy owners are getting “cheaper by the dozen” and are not pressured by the beloved “GUILD” to improve pharmacist wages. Shame on you “Pharmacy Guild”.

    • Scorpion
      16/03/2016

      Thank YOU! I agree.

    • Daniel
      16/03/2016

      Not correct. I have worked for Boots . They pay far less. Lucky if you get 35000 pounds per year. Which after adjusting for cost of living over there, and adjusting for exchange rates, would equate to lower pay overall than Australia. Also, you are under huge workloads, and you have extensive and stressful KPI’s you MUST hit. Having worked as an employee pharmacist in Europe and In Australia..Definately better off in Australia. I agree we are grossly underpaid, but if you think working for Boots would be better, you are simple wrong.

    • worried
      16/03/2016

      $100,000 is not a lot or remuneration for all the worry stress and investment required to run a small business.
      I think you would prefer to get $100,000 and the business owner only get $60,000 right?. Well let me tell you a LOT of business owners in the Pharmacy industry in Australia earn less than $60,000.

    • Ex boots manager
      22/03/2016

      I agree with Daniel
      If you think Boots will be the savour of your job think again
      Pharmacist pay was low and store staff pay was diabolical
      I was a Pharmacy store manager for almost 2 years
      They are the masters of low costs operations – the UK NHS dispensing fee was less than $A3 and the markup was MINUS 12% on list price so script volume was king. Like Australia this is under further pressure for cost cutting by the UK Govt
      It was nothing in my store for 1.75 Pharmacists and a Technician to dispense upwards of 450 scripts per 8 hour day every day.
      Patient counselling – dream on!
      The Australian wholesale network will be under pressure due to reduced volume because Boots imported their own stock from all over Europe and Asia – imagine container loads of Paracetamol at 30c per packet or less
      Boots make their money from retail sales

  2. Ian Colclough
    16/03/2016

    Equally well the corollary is that …. “there is no sound basis on which to imagine that
    Australian health care consumers would NOT be better served by pharmacies beholden
    to overseas shareholders of foreign corporate entities”. Evidence in the UK would suggest that consumers would be better served and the government and the competition regulators are coming round to that point of view too.

  3. William
    16/03/2016

    The idea of chemists being a protected species is an archaic one and originated early in the piece when some concerned chemists lobbied the governments to inhibit the likes of Washington Souls and Hallam chains further expansion and changing locations.
    This was a defensive and very natural action for businesses who like a “protected species life”. The economists call these rent seekers.

    The biggest mistake was changing pharmacy to a degree course rather than the old apprenticeship system. One does not need a University degree to be a shopkeeper (perhaps a business certificate from the TAFE would be better) and 99.9% of pharmacists these days only put labels on packets of already made medicines, in fact use dispensers to do that. Totally over qualified for the job they do and so are frustrated and trying to invent a role for themselves.
    .
    Everyone likes protection from competition but is it good for society? The more competition the better the service and the consumer and society benefits.

  4. Bill
    16/03/2016

    I was referring to big pharmacies turning over millions of dollars a year, thanks to the hard working pharmacists. But owners always complain of not making enough money just to avoid paying more wages. Common sense dictates that no owner will admit that their business is doing well, because that means that they will have to reward their staff for their hard work.

    The problem with pharmacy isn’t overseas pharmacies trying to get into the Australian market, the problem is the industry leaders (i.e. The Pharmacy Guild) making decisions and lobbying the government to benefit only themselves. So who is looking after the interests of humbled pharmacists who aren’t owners? we don’t even have a strong Union that represent pharmacists and fight for better wages, working conditions…etc. For as long as the Pharmacy Guild is in control, the industry in general will continue to deteriorate, even for owners.

    Daniel, may be you are right, Boots or CVS or any foreign pharmacy might not pay higher wages, provided that there are so many pharmacy students graduating every year. But to me its a risk that is worth taking. A small pharmacy employing 2 pharmacists and 2 pharmacy assistants may close down as a result of a big pharmacy opening next door, but they can employ 10 pharmacists and 20 pharmacy assistants.

    • geoff
      17/03/2016

      Not sure of the logic of last paragraph- if the area could support a big 10 pharmacist store then the small 2 pharmacist store would have already grown bigger to meet the demand. Clearly if it is successful, your proposed big store must cannibalise market share of other surrounding pharmacies- it is not just one small pharmacy that will close but many- look what happened to local hardware shops vs Bunnings. If it is to successfully drag clients away from surrounding pharmacies it will probably be a discounter with lower costs including lower overall pharmacist wages ie maybe 10 pharmacist will lose their jobs in the small pharmacies but the big pharmacy may make do with say 6 pharmacists- a net loss of employment with excess available pharmacist will result in lower wages for the fewer employed-LOSS-LOSS-LOSS. I would suggest it is not a risk worth taking

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