Cheaper drugs’ hard to swallow for family chemists

Jun 14, 2023

“We’ve seen this nightmare before,” Father of the House and Kennedy MP Bob Katter says on the proposed changes to pharmacy dispensing, comparing the move to the fateful deregulation of Australia’s major industries.

The Federal Government will allow 60 days’ worth of medication to be dispensed on one script from September 1, increasing from 30 days, in what it’s labelled as a move that would make drugs cheaper.

“But it will also halve the pay for every pharmacy in Australia,” Mr Katter said.

“Are you going to stay at a job where your pay is halved – no you’re not. That’s the question every pharmacist in Australia will be asking themselves now – ‘can I afford to stay at a job where my income is going to drop in half?’”.

Mr Katter asked the Federal Health Minister a question without notice, warning him of the dangers of destroying smaller family-run operations to allow larger corporates to expand – who already have 40 per cent market share.

Mr Katter said the country was heading down a path where it would no longer be economically viable to operate as a small and privately-run chemist, or more importantly, compete with a larger franchise.

“Isn’t this really about Terry White and Chemist Warehouse CEOs on a paltry $1.7 million a year wanting the Woolworths CEO’s $8 million or the Qantas CEO’s $25 million a year?”

In his response the minister told Mr Katter pharmacy modelling showed the industry was expecting to earn $100bn over the next four years, “without considering growth.”

“Well in this case we haven’t considered halving their pay either have we? In my question I said the ‘big two’ already have 40 per cent, so most of that $100bn is theirs,” Mr Katter said.

“They’re telling us prices will come down – well they told us the same when they deregulated motor cars and prices went up 600 per cent, they told us that with food and it went up 200 per cent.

“And they keep talking about regional and rural, I think most of the closures will be the suburbs where there’s greater  private family-run pharmacies competing against each other. So if you live in Sydney, it might now take you two hours to get to a pharmacy.

“We’ll be left with the Woolworths and Coles of pharmacies, and they’ll charge us whatever they like. So much for cheaper medication.”