Media release

AMA calls to scrap ‘anti-competitive’ pharmacy rules

Governments should scrap anti-competitive pharmacy ownership and location rules to improve access to medications and reduce costs for consumers, according to the Australian Medical Association.  

Pharmacy shelves

In its submission to the National Competition Policy Analysis, the AMA says the out-of-date “archaic” rules restrict patients’ access to cheaper medicines and pharmaceutical services. 

“We are in a cost-of-living crisis and everyone needs cheaper medicines and more competition,” AMA President Professor Steve Robson said.   

“We know the restrictions on pharmacy ownership and location are anti-competitive and undermine patients’ access to medicines and services,” Professor Robson said.  

“These rules limiting the number of pharmacies in one location are decades out of step with the recommendations and what patients’ need.” 

The submission highlights key industry reports, dating back almost 25 years, which have called for the removal of pharmacy ownership and location rules.  

“We have called on successive governments to scrap current pharmacy ownership and location rules because they are anti-competitive and archaic,” Professor Robson said.  

“They mean Australians pay more for medicines than they need to, and they do not guarantee supply or safety for Australian patients.” 

The AMA is also calling for further discounts of PBS medicines saying the pharmacy sector has the capacity to provide significant discounts for patients. 

“We want increased competition for consumers and pharmacies should be allowed to discount PBS medicines by as much as they want,” Professor Robson said.  

The AMA submission also warned against driving-up costs for consumers and governments, and it highlights key risks for Indigenous communities and rural and remote Australians. 

In a glaring example of how current ownership rules drive inequity of access, the Queensland Government would not even consider a modest proposal for the removal of restrictions on the ability of an Aboriginal Health Service to own and operate a pharmacy located at that Aboriginal Health Service.  

“We want increased competition to drive down medicine costs for patients and allow pharmacies to apply greater discounts to PBS medicines,” Professor Robson said.  

“We hope this time that governments listen because it is in the best interest of all Australians, everywhere. 

“We don’t want patient skipping medications because of the cost of living — that just shouldn’t be happening.” 

The submission also highlights issues with successive Community Pharmacy Agreements (CPA) which are supposed to ensure equitable access to Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) subsidised medicines. 
“In reality, CPAs have proven to be anti-competitive and continue to put the interests of pharmacy owners before patients, with several government reports also demonstrating that the CPAs lack transparency and accountability,” Professor Robson said.  

The submission follows calls from the AMA to help patients afford essential medicines as cost-of-living increases. 

The AMA’s Checklist for Cheaper Medicines includes measures governments can take, some of them immediately, to help reduce the cost of medicines for Australian households. 


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