The Great Pharmacy Debate


rural pharmacy: pretty rural scene with gum trees and blue sky

Last week, a Chemist Warehouse survey found many rural residents were driving long distances to access discounted scripts in larger centres – but what else did it uncover?

The Great Pharmacy Debate Survey, conducted in five regional towns in Victoria on behalf of Chemist Warehouse by Thrive Research, was widely reported on in national media, including by News Limited’s Sue Dunlevy, who has to date written a number of articles critical of the pharmacy sector and the Guild in particular.

Of particular interest was the fact that the survey found 65% of respondents had ever travelled to another town to visit a pharmacy, and of these, 85% drove more than 50km.

Price was cited as the key motivating factor in this behaviour, with 40% choosing this option, while “wider choice” was next, at 21.6%, followed by convenience (travelling to the town anyway) at 14.5% and better stock at 13.3%.

Nearly half – 48.2% of respondents – said they visited a pharmacy in a different town once a month or so, while 37.4% did so less than once a month. Only 1.3% did so more than once a week.

The survey also had wider findings, including that 73% of respondents said they were either served by an assistant or don’t know who they are served by at their local pharmacy.

It found that 65% of respondents said it was not important for them to know who owns their local pharmacy.

The survey also showed that 72% of people were not aware of price discrepancies for scripts, and more than 60% were unaware of the controversial and optional $1 copayment discount.

Eighty per cent wanted a discount pharmacy to open in their town, and 77% said there should be a change in the law to allow for more pharmacy competition in small towns.

Further findings included:

  • 31% said they visited their local pharmacy “once every two weeks or so,” while 30.8% visited “once a month or so”. Another 23.1% visited “once a week or so” while 6.8% visited more than once a week.
  • Only 7.2% had previously bought scripts online in the past, while 35.2% were aware that they could do so but had not done so, and 57.6% said they didn’t know this was possible.
  • Thirty-three per cent said they would be very unlikely to buy a script online in the next six months, with 22.5% saying this was unlikely and 21.6% saying this was likely or very likely.

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