Community Pharmacies across Australia are estimated to be a network of 5,700 operating within self-protecting set of rules. It is a complex system that creates protective measures for its framework.
Australian Pharmacy Industry and Its Power
Accessibility and pricing of medications
Where and how remote are the communities that pharmacies can reach across Australia and how affordable can the medications be.
Location to customers and each other
Where and what are the best locations for pharmacies to reach their customers without having to directly compete with each other.
Proper handling and knowledge of medications
What qualified staff is working at the pharmacy in not just safely handling the medications but also appropriately prescribing it to customers.
Public health and safety impact and communication
Hot topic issues pharmacies can educate their customers about and provide relevant services for when necessary.
Self-protective framework and catching the wrongdoers
The pharmacy industry can protect each other from outside influences but also punish any unethical behaviour.
The rules can be complicated to say the least. Unlike the pharmaceutical industry and some of its unethical problems in recent history that we have previously mentioned.
Just the tip of the iceberg here – one of the basic rules is that only registered pharmacists can own a pharmacy, which has excluded bigger companies in Australia like Coles and Woolworths for years.
But pharmacies are also protected from each other with location rules. A new pharmacy in a larger urban area must be opened more than 1.5 kilometres away from an existing pharmacy. Adding to that, if the new pharmacy is located 500 metres nearby a small supermarket then there must also be a full-time prescribing medical practitioner in the same area. Not to be confused though, if you are within 500 metres of a larger supermarket, then you do not need to be nearby a doctor.
Would this always be considered fair to their customers? Certainly, the network is enabling access to medicines in many parts of Australia.
Recently even over the counter pill-testing kits in the wake of festival controversies in some parts of NSW. But there is also research that Australia is paying much more for some drugs than other countries like the UK and their framework.
Due to the large number of people the network of pharmacies can reach daily across the country, it is an enviable framework for those who are looking from the outside in.
And as someone similar like that, Chemist Warehouse group told the 2016 Harper review they had nearly 400 wholly owned and franchised stores as well as a successful online operation. They told Harper at the time they were Australia’s 13th largest retailer by turnover. With over 10,000 staff their then sales clocked in at $2.7 billion. That was around 20% of total retail pharmacy sales under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme at the time.
That was years ago, but an indication of the state of where things were and how far things have come for a group which ruffled feathers within the pharmacy industry. And after that those numbers have been on the decline with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission seeing dwindling profits lodged in the financial statements.
Earlier this year it was reported local Brisbane pharmacies were banding together against the influences of Chemist Warehouse and create favourable conditions for themselves in terms of pricing to their customers. A move that had increasingly become a viable one for them and worth exploring.
In Southeast Melbourne a pharmacy owner tried to fight against a 24 hour pharmacy opening attached with a medical centre. They argued the 500 metres location rule and still had to push for a follow up decision. That was another example in recent times to consider looking into.
While being a self-protective framework it does allow for these scenarios to happen. In the UK, only at the end of last year did the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) gain the legal power to conduct covert surveillance of pharmacists and combat illegally sold controlled drugs. The interests of the members should be protected as should every member aim to participate in the best possible ways.
In extreme cases of public health and safety pharmacies have the power to contribute directly to their customers. Like in this US example, New Jersey pharmacies helped combat opioid overdoses by handing out free reversal medication.
For medical centres, it can be advantageous to be located with or nearby a pharmacy. The business side complements well with being able to help each other’s customers. We have also seen this from our side in recruitment, with some of our busiest and hard-working clients working together with the nearby pharmacy.
Gorilla Jobs can put you in touch with a vast network of pharmacies looking for qualified and friendly staff. Speak to our Senior Consultant Sean Kelly and find out more about what career advice suits you the most.
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