Warning against pharmacy rule changes

amcal, pharmacy, chemist, prescriptionPlanned changes to rules governing the ownership and location of pharmacies won’t necessarily benefit the sector, the chairman of drugs wholesaler Sigma Pharmaceuticals says.

The recent Harper competition review urged the Federal Government to scrap rules about where pharmacies are located as well as those restricting ownership to qualified pharmacists.

But Brian Jamieson, whose company owns the Amcal and Guardian chemist brands, says all parties should be aware of the consequences, both intended and unintended, if such rules were scrapped.

“It is dangerous to assume that what will be irreversible changes will deliver desirable and better outcomes above what can already be achieved through the many levers Government has to regulate the industry,” he told shareholders at Sigma’s annual meeting on Wednesday.

Sigma’s CEO, Mark Hooper, also urged the Federal Government to increase subsidies paid to pharmacies selling drugs covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The industry is currently in talks with the Government about striking a new Community Pharmacy Agreement – a $15.4 billion, five year deal that expires in June.

Under the agreement, pharmacies that buy PBS-listed drugs from wholesalers are reimbursed by the Government when they sell them to customers.

Hooper says the current subsidies are insufficient to adequately sustain the pharmacy sector at a time when volumes are growing and prices are falling.

“Unless the funding shortfall is addressed, the Government will inevitably undermine its own National Medicines Policy to the detriment of patients,” he said.

Reports have suggested the Federal Government is preparing an overhaul of the PBS part of its next Budget, which will be handed down on Tuesday.


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