What you said

Chemist Warehouse has been in the headlines over the past week for its survey and comments over location rules… but what did AJP readers have to say about it?

Last week, News Limited media reported on Chemist Warehouse data which found that two-thirds of respondents had driven to another town to save money when filling scripts, and of these, more than 85% had driven more than 50kms.

The data found that around 60% of respondents had put off buying medication due to the cost, while more than 70% wanted a discount pharmacy to open in their town, agreeing the legislation should be change to allow for greater pharmacy competition in smaller rural centres.

The Pharmacy Guild called the article a “misleading shameless beat-up”.

“The Location Rules have played an important and beneficial part in sustaining the effective network of community pharmacies in Australia – a network which benefit patients wherever they live,” said National President of the Pharmacy Guild, George Tambassis.

AJP readers had this to say:

“From my experience, people driving 50km or more to get their “medicines cheaper elsewhere” are not doing this because of the cost of medicine in rural areas but because they are already travelling these distances for other reasons, such as grocery shopping , or lack of services in their localities.
I would argue one of the biggest reasons for the travel is work. People are essentially already commuting regularly and simply taking advantage of price differences. Changing the rules to accommodate cwh viewpoint will not put an end to commuting between towns.” VC

“Imo the only way to securely make sure no Australian is disadvantaged is to regulate all rx prices so no matter where you go be it a pharmacy in Pharia 1 or 6, chemist warehouse banner or independent so all rx prices are identical. Allowing pharmacies to discount medications is what has lead to the disparity between areas.” SM

“Don’t play with young pharmacists emotions by giving them false hope, when the only winner in this game will be big boys with very deep pockets. Absolutely shameless.” UWS

“Australian ownership and location rules have allowed Mr Tascone and his mates on the CWH politburo to become some of the richest people in this country … It’s pretty cynical that now he wants to change ‘the rules’ because he feels safe on his pile of cash. Anyway, he can BUY any pharmacy in any town in Australia he wants!! so what’s the problem!! you can have mine at the right price!” TH

In the same week, former ACCC head Graeme Samuel said the success of discounters is “inevitable” and called on Australians to contact pollies about relaxing location rules in the name of lower prices – a suggestion welcomed by Chemist Warehouse.

AJP readers responded:

“Yes Mr Samuels, Come and visit my Pharmacy, spend a while, and see the level of care and attention we provide to our local community. I would Love to be able to move my business to a much busier location by the way, more profit for me! But…. I would miss MY community, the people I have spent a generation helping. Then we can both go and spend some time at the local Discount chain store. I will prove to you that we are comparing two very different service models. And my community know this, and support me and for that loyalty I will always do my best for them in return. I am proud to be a community pharmacist.” MK

“Remove location rules, yes, but strictly enforce ownership restrictions. No grandfather clauses, no loopholes, no taking advantage of friendly societies provisions (c’mon, what is a friendly society these days?) Update the law to match the 21st century reality.” PP

“There is NOTHING stopping Mr Tascone expanding his empire into ANY town in Australia that he wants.
1. BUY any existing pharmacy in any town.
2. SET UP shop in any town that does not have a pharmacy (fat chance..)” TH 

“Thanks to CWH, patients look at pharmacists with no respect. Pharmacy is like retail in their eyes. CWH do not counsel patients in my limited experience. I went there to buy a few box of antihistamine to test whether anyone asked me something related to my medical history or similar and nobody asked. Also, CWH pay their employees the least wages they can. CWH is all about money and they don’t care about the profession. Very sad.” AN

“I guess if you think of having quantity over quality that is true. It’s up to practicing pharmacists to show their value and not fall into the trap of chasing volume. When patients see value in the service you’re proving them, they will remain loyal.” LT

“Oh dear god. This will crush the professions status as key health providers. So many thoughts and yet I find myself speechless. What a sad future our industry faces if this becomes reality.” SH

“The Pharmacy Industry today is what the Taxi Industry was like 6 years ago. Figuratively speaking it will eventually be “Ubered”. Location rules for those economically literate amongst us is bad for the industry and bad for patients and our extensive research proves it.” MR 

A few days after reports on the survey results, Chemist Warehouse announced that it was launching a new advertising campaign, claiming that it had saved Australian consumers a “whopping” $44 million in savings.

Here’s what you had to say:

“It is customer service first ‘always’ with good sound professional advice from someone who actually focusses on the issue/s and generally cares about you as a person and goes the extra mile so to speak. Savings will never outweigh any of the above.” LM

“Haha, savings!! In their own minds maybe…which is perhaps not under their control when it comes to spending on unsubsidised, useless, non-evidence based stuff sprawled in the Bunnings of supplements. So where is the whooping 50$ saved in a year going……..in the pokies if not spent on saw palmetto.” SS

“As someone who went to university and became a health professional it saddens me dearly that the degree has been tainted by the words “cheap” and “whopping saving”. Patient & Medication Safety, Antimicrobial Stewardship, Health Literacy are all examples of areas where Pharmacists and Pharmacies need to focus their advertising energy.” GB

“I wonder how much more it cost the public by having them open and to just dispense medication, while their customers go elsewhere for professional advice.” DD

“I’ve had so many customers convert to my pharmacy when they hear that they could have been on freebies by now… Silly cwh.” MM

“What gets me with the $1 discount is that in the case of patients who reach the safety net, what they actually spend per year is exactly the same…” SE

“Any young pharmacist should be horrified at the prospect of deregulation – my businesses were seriously damaged by the arrival of Chem Warehouse in my town. Sure, relax the rules and any pharmacist can open anywhere, BUT, are any of the hopeful owners going to risk their assets/savings/family money to open a store only to have Chemist Warehouse open nearby and slaughter them?” AB

“I don’t like the way it’s called ‘passing on’ the dollar discount when nothing was passed to us.” NL

“Disingenuous crap. I guess what we expect from CWH who peddle falsity unashamedly to advance the empire.” TL

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1 Comment

  1. Greg Kyle

    The 2 closest pharmacies to where I live are CWH, and from a convenience perspective, they are the ones I and my family most commonly frequent for prescription and some non-prescription items. My family and I have also visited almost every other pharmacy in a 2-3km radius from where we live and I have to say that the level of service in ALL of them – CWH, other chain, independent is all the same. No prescriptions receive counseling (well none of ours). OTC purchase questions consist of “Have you had this before?” … if that. Speaking as a consumer in such a marketplace of beige, why wouldn’t I (or my family) base our decision of where to go on price or convenience of location?

    My personal experience of CWH is that it very much depends on the pharmacy as to the level of counseling and advice given, rather than any consistency in experience across the brand. Some function as true community pharmacies inside a big box environment and others are more like a supermarket – it seems to be about the owner(s) and their philosophy. However, CWH is not alone in this regard as I have also had similar experiences across other brands – TWCC, Guardian, AMCAL, DDS to name a few.

    Pharmacy has come to a new crossroads – it needs to decide if it’s shopfront offering is primarily about being a healthcare provider, or is it about retail. Then the offering needs to match that decision – across the board. The profession as a whole, not just the guild, or other vested interest groups, needs to decide this. Practice standards need to be developed with clear boundaries about what the profession (again, not vested interest groups) consider professionally appropriate, and there needs to be some sort of professional stick for those who decide to stray outside the boundaries so defined.

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