The Pharmacy Guild of Australia believes the apparent imminent takeover of Sigma Healthcare by Chemist Warehouse poses significant questions and risks. These questions and risks relate to patient care, community pharmacy ownership, competition, and the future of CSO wholesaling which Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments together with regulators, like the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), need to urgently consider and address.
For many decades, the community pharmacy model has guaranteed patients access to vital and life-saving medications without putting profit over patient care. Fundamental to this outcome is pharmacist owned community pharmacies combined with a limit on the number of community pharmacies owned, due to the duty of care and clinical governance responsibilities associated with medicines, medicine administration, counselling and patient care. Medicines are not ordinary items of commerce.
We recognise, with the appropriate regulatory oversight, that franchising can and does legitimately and conveniently support many community pharmacies providing health and other services to their patients. Regulators must however be wary of increased corporatisation in the community pharmacy sector, and carefully scrutinise complex business models for compliance with community pharmacy ownership laws – laws designed to ensure that only pharmacists own, operate and control community pharmacies are in the best interest of patients.
Recent strengthening of community pharmacy ownership laws and greater regulatory oversight in Queensland and New South Wales are not only strongly supported by the Guild but demonstrate that there is bipartisan support across the country to preserve patients’ rights to access world class healthcare in metropolitan, regional, rural and remote Australia through the existing community pharmacy model.
The Guild will reserve further comment until more information is available.