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Majority of NZers support pharmacy deregulation

Majority of New Zealanders support pharmacy deregulation

A clear majority of New Zealanders (64%) support having pharmacies within a supermarket or department store – and 74% see advantages to the concept.

These research findings were released today following the New Zealand Retailers Association presentation to the Health Select Committee which is considering whether to end pharmacists’ monopoly on owning chemist shops.

“The research was carried out in May and June last year when the Pharmacy Guild was in the middle of a high profile scare campaign to try to retain the monopoly its members have on owning a pharmacy,” said New Zealand Retailers’ Chief Executive John Albertson.

“The results clearly show that there is majority support for ending the pharmacy monopoly, to allow supermarkets or department stores to own and operate pharmacies, employing qualified pharmacists to dispense and provide advice.

“Interestingly both the focus groups and the nation-wide survey show that the more people understand what a pharmacy within a supermarket or department store would look like, the more they support the move.

“About a third (32%) support the idea of a greater range of medicines being available from a wider range of stores, but then when the model is described – so people have a better understanding of how it would work in practice – support doubles.”

At present only a pharmacist can own a chemist shop (there is a minimum 75% ownership requirement). The Health Professionals’ Competency Assurance Bill before the House would retain this monopoly (with a minimum 51% ownership requirement), though it would end the only other retail ownership monopoly, which is currently held by optometrists. Optometrists support the ending of their monopoly, while the Pharmacy Guild, which represents chemist shop owners, is fighting to retain the chemists’ monopoly.

Ending the monopoly would allow someone other than a pharmacist to own a chemist shop, but would not change who could dispense drugs (that could only be done by a registered pharmacist). If a pharmacy was owned and operated by a supermarket or department store it would be a ‘store within a store’ employing qualified pharmacists. Standards would be assured through the training and registration requirements applying to pharmacists (which are similar to those of other health professionals), and through the requirement that all pharmacies be registered.

Nearly three quarters of those surveyed could identify at least one benefit of having a pharmacy within a supermarket or department store.

The most frequently mentioned benefits are seen as: convenience of a ‘one-stop-shop’ seen (52% in survey) longer trading hours (19%) cheaper prices for pharmacy products (11%)

“People aren’t stupid: they can see that ending chemist shop owners’ current monopoly would improve access, making it easier to have prescriptions filled, and that competition would make it difficult for chemists to charge monopoly prices, which happens now.

“Chemists currently have by far the highest margin in retail at 11% overall and the Consumers Institute recently identified that margins of over 600 percent were charged on some pharmacy-only items.”

“Ending that is in everyone’s interests except the chemist shop owners,” said John Albertson.

Note on the research:

The research findings are based on both quantitative and qualitative research conducted in May and June 2002. Focus groups were held in Auckland and Wellington in May 2002 covering a range of age groups, income/socio-economic groups, men/women and life circumstances. This was following by a national telephone survey, conducted as part of an omnibus survey. The sample size was 1,000 and the survey covered all people 18+, including rural areas.

See attached fact sheets for background on the current law and what is proposed.

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