‘ Unfair’ rules for medicine
MORE than half the residents in 18 NSW rural towns have delayed buying medication because they can’t afford them and the rules that keep their medicine prices high are about to be entrenched.
Three in four residents in these towns want the rules changed to allow discount pharmacies into their communities, a new survey by Chemist Warehouse has found.
Location rules that prevent a new pharmacy opening within 1.5km of an existing chemist are shutting discount pharmacies out of country towns and driving up the price of medicine.
General patients in these towns are paying up to three times more for medicines than they would at a discount chemist. Pensioners in these towns are missing out on a $1 discount that chemists can apply to the $6.50 and $40.30 charge consumers pay for subsidised medicine.
The Government is currently negotiating a new fiveyear agreement with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia but Health Minister Greg Hunt has said it will not change these outdated location rules.
This is despite the fact two government inquiries ruled the location rules are anti-competitive and against the interests of consumers.
A spokesman for Health Minister Greg Hunt said the pharmacy location rules aim to ensure an appropriate spread of pharmacies across Australia.
“The Australian parliament recently legislated the Pharmacy Location Rules to encourage an appropriate geographical spread of community pharmacies, including in regional and rural areas.
“The government … cannot override this through a pharmacy agreement.”
The survey of 790 people in 18 NSW towns, including Bathurst, Wagga, Goulburn and Broken Hill, found 57 per cent of people had travelled to another town to access cheaper prices at a discount chemist.