A senior Chemist Warehouse spokesperson has called for relaxation of the location rules, following mainstream media reports which were condemned by the Guild
Following Tuesday’s News Limited reports regarding the results of a recent Chemist Warehouse survey of 325 people, the Pharmacy Guild issued clarification around the Location Rules and said they ensure community pharmacies are established where a genuine need exists.
The Guild criticised an article by News Limited’s Sue Dunlevy as a “misleading shameless beat-up”.
The article cited Chemist Warehouse survey results which showed that two in three people had driven to another town to have their scripts filled more cheaply. In around 90% of these cases, the distance was greater than 50km.
Mario Tascone, chief operating officer of the My Chemist Group (which includes Chemist Warehouse) told the AJP that the group wanted to conduct research in towns where it receives a significant number of enquiries as to whether a Chemist Warehouse is planned for the vicinity.
“We’re not in those towns, and it’s not easy to get into these towns,” he said. “But we want to just see how big demand is.”
Mr Tascone said that the Guild’s response to the News Limited articles was disappointing.
“The main issue that I have with the Guild’s response to Sue Dunlevy’s article is that they’re unapologetic for Australians paying more for their medicines. That’s disgraceful,” he said.
“Of all the Australians that need help, it’s regional Australia. We’ll continue to conduct more surveys where they’ve little access to affordable medicines – research proves that the more affordable you make medicines, the better compliance is, and this brings better health care outcomes.”
He said the New Zealand model, which has looser ownership, location and discounting laws compared to Australia, offered greater benefits to patients than the Australian model.
Chemist Warehouse has opened several stores in New Zealand.
“They [the Guild] keep quoting that Australia has the best system for pharmacy, but I’ll argue that,” he said.
“We’re in New Zealand now and I reckon it’s far better than Australia: there’s relaxed ownership laws, no location laws, you can open where you like by who you like.”
He said that New Zealand patients – metropolitan and rural alike – enjoyed good access to community pharmacies.
“There’s independent pharmacies, major groups, there’s supermarkets with pharmacies and the sky hasn’t fallen in.
“In New Zealand, they’ve got cheaper co-payments. You can discount to anything you like there. And the sky hasn’t fallen in New Zealand, and I don’t know why we have to keep pulling out these arguments that the laws here are to the benefit of the community.
“They do nothing to serve new graduates who are dissatisfied with pharmacy, that want to be owners of pharmacies,” Mr Tascone said.
“They’ve got a very hard path to becoming an owner, with inflated pharmacy prices – no pharmacist can afford a million, $2 million when they graduate.
“If we didn’t have these laws they could set up their own shop from scratch and ply their trade. This is why there’s no innovation in pharmacy, and that’s sad
“The location rules need to change. We need to see innovation, and that’s never going to happen the way it is.”
He criticised the Guild for making significant donations to all sides of politics, including the donations to One Nation (which were payment for attendance at party events) which attracted controversy earlier this year.
However, he said that the Guild’s recent proposal to reduce the cost of script co-payments for all patients had some merit.
“We sort of agree with that $1 discount. It sounds like a good idea, but until that happens, the optional discount is there.
“This is Australia, not Russia. I want to be able to discount whatever I like, and if I want to give away scripts for free, it should be that there’s no law that says I can’t do this.
“Let’s make medicines affordable for more Australians. That leads to better compliance rates.”