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Political differences over ownership and control threaten to hamper the growth of the program

Self-interest driving ownership change agenda, senior Guild leader says

The calls for changes to the regulations around the ownership of community pharmacies are being by financial self-interest, not patient care, says Anthony Tassone, president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria).

Speaking to AJP this week, Mr Tassone said “the motives of those calling for opening up of pharmacy ownership both within and external to our profession are very questionable and appear more about fuelling self-interest rather than the public or patient interest.” 

His comments followed from a recent column he wrote in a Guild Victorian branch member newsletter which was highly critical of the stance of the AMA and other medical groups that have been calling for changes to ownership regulations.

“The renewed call by doctors’ groups to open up pharmacy ownership to non-pharmacists beggars belief given the medical profession’s own experiences with corporatisation,” Mr Tassone said in this column.

“For reasons we can only ponder, the AMA and the Royal Australian College of GPs seem fixated with pharmacy regulation, urging regulators to open up pharmacy to the same corporate forces that have had such a negative impact on medical care”.

A number of submissions to the ongoing Queensland Parliamentary inquiry into establishing a pharmacy council, and other pharmacy regulatory issues, have recommended deregulating the sector. 

As well as calls from the AMA and RACGP, Chemist Warehouse and Ramsay Health have also called for deregulation. 

CWH co-founder Damian Gance appeared before a public hearing as part of the inquiry and said that, instead of retaining the current pharmacy ownership rules, owners should instead be subjected to a “fit and proper person” test, which could see corporate owners act more ethically than pharmacist owners.

“Whilst I can appreciate the historical context and at least fathom the rationale for the introduction of these laws, I contend wholeheartedly that they have no place in a modern Australia,” he said.

The Queensland Branch of the AMA said in its submission that it “agrees that control of medicines dispensing should remain the responsibility of registered pharmacists, however the current ownership restrictions prevent the development of healthcare models that could benefit patient care.”

Mr Tassone said the Guild’s research showed patients preferred the current model of pharmacy ownership.

“As part of its submission to the Harper Competition Policy Review in 2015, the Guild commissioned the Institute for Choice at the University of Adelaide to undertake a qualitative survey of consumer preferences for community pharmacy relative to alternative models of service delivery.

“This analysis confirmed that 89% of consumers trust their local pharmacists very highly or completely. Two-thirds of respondents supported the principle that professionals like pharmacists should own the businesses they work in,” he said. 

“Why would we seek to unravel a model that consumers and patients prefer and have trust in just to serve the self-interest of a minority of stakeholders?”

Click here to read Mr Tassone’s comments in full

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6 Comments

  1. pagophilus
    29/08/2018

    Of course it’s self-interest. What about the self-interest of those who can’t get a foot in the door of ownership or those who can’t compete because of monopolisation by those who have set up corporate structures whose sole purpose seems to be to circumvent laws regulating pharmacy ownership, specifically how many pharmacies one can own?

    Where’s the investigation into this? Is the system really too lucrative or well-connected politically for something to be done about this?

    • Gavin Mingay
      29/08/2018

      Yes!! Actually enforcing the ownership laws would be the best thing for the pharmacy profession… The big corporations have killed our industry.

      • M M
        29/08/2018

        Gavin, it is interesting you say that. let me ask “Why do you think that big corporations have killed the pharmacy industry?” and if you can help me further by giving examples. M

        • Gavin Mingay
          29/08/2018

          M M it is interesting you ask that… If you could give me an example of your name, I will give you some examples of how the big corporations have killed pharmacy…

  2. Tony Lee
    29/08/2018

    Totally agree. with pagophilus. Self interest will always prevail past and future.
    As an aside I would note that their has always been antagonism by doctors against pharmacists as they see the erosion of income and status. The intrusion of pharmacy into their honey pot has been unfolding forever and they desperately need to retain their professional standing while retaining income. They must politically address the absurd 15 minute patient Medicare model to begin.

  3. Bruce ANNABEL
    29/08/2018

    Ownership and location regulations have essential in allowing the traditional community model and PBS distribution network to survive. Anthony is again well advocating on behalf the industry and current professional practice as we customers have all come to know it. There is a great deal of sense maintaining the pharmacist only ownership rule just as it makes little sense for GPs to own pharmacy. Why would they bother because pharmacy is no longer the gravy train it once was and maintain the separation of responsibilities is important, particularly to me as a customer who has S4 scripts filled every month. But the reality is this; do pharmacy owners respect the privilege of exclusivity making the most of it on behalf of customers like me and realize the huge opportunities available to them?

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