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Productivity Commission calls
for pharmacy deregulation
The Productivity Commission has joined calls to deregulate ownership
and location of community pharmacies and has also specifically
advocated allowing supermarket ownership and co-location.
In its research paper Efficiency in Health,
the commission said restrictions on
retail pharmacy location and ownership
were clearly more about ‘protecting
the vested interests of incumbent
pharmacists than about promoting
consumers’ interests and maximising
benefits for society as a whole’.
‘By limiting the number of pharmacies
that can open in a given area,
the location rules reduce accessibility
and convenience for many consumers,
and make it harder for consumers to
compare price and service offerings
across pharmacies. This acts to reduce
the competitive pressure on pharmacies
to reduce prices or increase service
offerings (including opening hours),’
the paper says.
‘In competitive markets without these
restrictions, firms would be able to
open or relocate where the commercial
opportunities are greatest. But this is
not the case for pharmacies: the location
rules can prevent a pharmacy opening
in a high‐demand area if another
pharmacy is already present, or from
co‐locating with another business
(such as a supermarket) where this
improves convenience for consumers.
‘Pharmacy ownership rules also hurt
consumers by reducing innovation
and entrepreneurship in the sector.
Excluding corporations (such as
supermarkets and general retail outlets)
and non‐pharmacists from owning
pharmacy businesses limits the scope to
leverage specialised management skills
and expertise that could reduce costs
and improve service quality.
‘Coupled with limits on the number of
separate businesses a pharmacist may
own, this limits opportunities to reduce
costs (and prices) by operating on a
larger scale or across a broader range of
The report concluded that allowing a
wide range of new competitors to enter
the market would provide greater access
and choice for consumers and, over
time, place greater downward pressure
on pharmaceutical prices.
This could involve non‐pharmacists
owning pharmacies and relaxation of
location rules allowing pharmacies to
colocate in other retail outlets such as
The paper also commented that
reimbursement for some services
listed on the MBS was only available
to GPs, even though such services
could be safely provided by other
professionals such as nurse practitioners
Referring specifically to the Queensland
vaccination pilot, the report said:
‘Several states have shown interest
in giving pharmacists authority to
administer vaccines (traditionally
administered by general practitioners or
Under the Queensland Pharmacist
Immunisation Pilot, over 10,000
vaccinations were administered by
registered pharmacists to the general
public in 2014, with no significant
adverse events reported (Newman and
Other jurisdictions, including Western
Australia, South Australia and the
Northern Territory, have taken steps
to allow pharmacists to provide
It also attacks pharmacy arguments in
support of the status quo.
Pharmacists rate highly
again ethics and honesty
Pharmacists have rated second highest
after nurses in the latest Roy Morgan
Image of Professions Survey 2015.
The rating of pharmacists fell two
points to make them equal second with
doctors, whose rating rose two points.
Both are now on a rating of 84 compared
with nurses on 92.
Other professions that also gained high
ratings for ethics and honesty in 2015,
included school teachers 78% (up 6%),
engineers 74% (up 2%), dentists 71%
(down 3%), police 69% (down 2%), state
supreme court judges 69% (down 1%)
and high court judges 68% (down 6%).
Amongst the biggest losers in 2015
were bank managers 34% (down 9%),
accountants 45% (down 7% – their lowest
since 2002), lawyers 31% (down 7%) and
university lecturers 61% (down 5%).
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