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Medical Health Aged Care

Patients must come ahead of incumbent pharmacy owner profits

Royal Australian College of GPs 3 mins read

The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) has called for Queensland’s pharmacy ownership and location rules to be scrapped.

The call comes following the College’s submission to the Queensland Parliamentary Economic and Governance Committee inquiry on the Pharmacy Business Ownership Bill 2023, which seeks to repeal the Pharmacy Business Ownership Act 2001 and replace it with a modern framework for the regulation of pharmacy ownership.

The RACGP has consistently called for change to rules governing the pharmacy sector, and urged government to overhaul outdated and anti-competitive pharmacy ownership and location laws, which limit competition and make it harder for people to access discounted pharmacy services, resulting in higher costs and limited choice for consumers. 

RACGP Queensland Chair, Dr Cathryn Hester, called for overdue reform of the sector.

“Review after review after review has recommended the removal of pharmacy location and ownership rules, but the current Pharmacy Business Ownership Bill will keep them in place,” she said.

“The proposed regulations will continue to stifle competition, limit consumer choice, and slow improvements across the sector. If the Government is serious about addressing high cost of living pressures across the state they will choose to put downward pressure on the cost of vital medicines through competition. Not acting will force people to make heartbreaking choices between putting food on the table, filling up the car, or buying medicines for chronic conditions.

“There has never been a more important time to open up the sector to competition, help drive down costs and drive up innovation and improvements. GPs and practice teams value the work of pharmacists and pharmacy teams immensely, and we want to make sure all patients have the best access to pharmacy services in all communities.”

Dr Hester said that the Bill must change in the interests of consumers.

“The Productivity Commission has called out that existing ownership rules clearly have harmful consequences for consumers in terms of reduced access to medicines, reduced competition, and innovation,” she said.

“In its evidence to the Parliamentary Inquiry, the Commission noted it was unaware of any evidence that the ownership rules improve outcomes for consumers relative to the ownership structures that exist in other parts of the primary health system. Despite this, the Government’s Bill will maintain the status quo, and that is not good enough.

“Patients must come first. The current restrictions protect the vested interests of a few large corporate pharmacists who already own their patch, rather than improving access to medicines for those struggling to afford them. The rules were established at a time when most pharmacies were small community pharmacies, but now most pharmacies are owned by large corporate entities.

“There is no longer any logical reason why the pharmacy sector should be protected and treated differently. The pharmacy owner lobby group claims that consumers won’t feel comfortable receiving healthcare advice in other settings, like supermarkets. However, pharmacies operating in these settings are commonplace overseas where supermarket pharmacies allow people to drop off their prescriptions and do their shopping while they wait. The pharmacy owner lobby claim also belies the fact almost 40% of pharmacy revenue comes from retail products, non-prescription medicine sales and non-evidence-based products unrelated to health that no GP would recommend to any patient.

“Enough is enough, we need change to put Aussie consumers first.”


RACGP spokespeople are available for interview.

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About the RACGP

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is the peak representative organisation for general practice, the backbone of Australia’s health system. We set the standards for general practice, facilitate lifelong learning for GPs, connect the general practice community, and advocate for better health and wellbeing for all Australians.

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Contact details:

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Media Adviser

Ally Francis
Media Adviser

Stuart Winthrope
Media Officer


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