‘ Un­fair’ rules for medicine

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - THE SNITCH - SUE DUNLEVY

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.

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