PBS changes - a story and a question

So the Govt are trying to put through some changes to the PBS. I read a little about it recently here: http://www.news.com.au/money/cost-of-living/chemists-want-higher-medicine-costs-greater-profits/story-fnagkbpv-1226700217513


I asked the wife, who is in allied health, what she knew about it, but she plead ignorance.  It sounds to me like, amongst other things, pharmacies get a fixed price for a given medication, and whether they actually dispense the generic or the non-generic is irrelevant. Basically, it seems to me like the pharmacy makes considerably more on the generics than the non-generic, whilst we pay only a very small difference.


Can anyone provide a bit more info on it? It seems like a reasonable change to me - a good change actually, but I'd like to know more.


Now, the story...


Today I went to the pharmacy. I have a long dislike of pharmacists. Sure, they have an important role, but the fact they double as snake oil salesmen with a lot of their products, and play the "trust" angle to get you to buy said snake oil really doesn't sit well with me. The number of products they sell that are proven ineffective, yet they still promote them to the naive suckers, is disgraceful. Then there is the third degree I get when I just want some Nurofen Plus - I don't know why, but I can't buy it without them questioning me for 5 minutes. It's not like I look like a junkie FFS! And the fact it takes them 20 minutes to pull a box off a shelf... Sorry, I'm ranting here, but I really think a lot have a lot to answer for... (Not all - there are good pharmacists out there, and the role of pharmacists is very important)


So I currently have gastro (yay!) and was attempting to fill a prescription. The pharmacist gives me my gear, then i head to the checkout to pay. The following ensues (P = pharmacist checkout chick, Z = me). Keep in mind I'm NOT well. Major pain problems from an ongoing case of meningitis (reasonably mild, thankfully), plus the new issue of gastro...


P: Would you like to sign this petition?

I look at the petition. It says the government are changing PBS and that will put them out of business. It doesn't actually say what the changes are - no facts, just "we'll be out of business"

Z: Um, actually I read a little about this and have been meaning to find out more - i'm not sure where I sit on it

P: Well, basically, the changes to the PBS will put us out of business

Z: Yeah, the petition says that - it doesn't say why. I'd prefer to know what I'm signing

P: So you want us to go out of business?

Z: No, I didn'-

At this point she interrupts me

P: If you don't sign it, we'll go out of business

Z: Yes, you said that, but you haven't told me why

P: We'll be gone! Only the big pharmacies will be left, then what do you do? They'll up their prices!

Z: Look, I don't know enough about this issue to sign a petition

At this point my constitution is wearing downThe ladies face is going bright red, and she is genuinely angry with me

P: So, you'll be happy to watch us close down? You'll be happy to see me lose my job?

Z: Look, I just want to get my medication and go please

P: The Labor government got us into this debt you know. They couldn't control their spending, and now they are going to close down all the small pharmacies, and YOU will have to pay more for medication, and you're just happy to let that happen!?

Z: Please, I can I have my change?

P: Fine. You probably won't see us again you know, we'll be shut down, and you don't care!

Z: OK, have a nice day


DEAD SET SERIOUS. I copped abuse, when I was ■■■■■■■ sick, from some nut job because I wouldn't sign a petition about an issue that I don't know enough about to decide where I sit. I know that many people just sign petitions because it's easier than saying "no", and I don't have a problem with that. But abusing someone because they won't just blindly sign something is unacceptable. 

'P' clearly wasn't one of those foxy lady pharmacists otherwise you would have just signed the petition.

'P' clearly wasn't one of those foxy lady pharmacists otherwise you would have just signed the petition.

Hah! Very true.

I with you on in regards to dodgy pharmacists. In fact, any pharmacy that peddles homeopathic remedies should be de-registered in my view.

I worked for several pharmacies until about a month ago, though I don't know much about the new legislation.


I do however know that pharmacies hardly make anything from non-generic medications. Generics are where their profits come from, and any successful pharmacy will place a strong emphasis on keeping their generic conversion rate high. Small pharmacies are already struggling and most have been bought out or run out of business by the big companies.


Pharmacist check out chick was way out of line and I imagine her employers (if they've got any sense) would be horrified to see their customers spoken to like that.


I also disagree with your general view of pharmacists. While of course there are going to be plenty of dodgies out there, most pharmacists are professional and give advice based on the prevailing scientific view. For instance, if you asked whether phenylephrine was an effective nasal decongestant, many pharmacists would tell you that it's rubbish and that if you can't take pseudoephedrine, you'd be better off just buying straight paracetamol.


As for the interrogation about the Nurofen Plus, they are required to do that by law. Drugs like codeine and pseudoephedrine are very widely abused and while they are generally available without prescription, there are a lot of restrictions relating to their sale. You would be surprised at how often pharmacies get illegitimate customers trying to buy that stuff. Pharmacies are also subject to regular mystery shoppers (from various parties) to ensure that they adhere to proper procedure such as asking the right questions.

I do financial statements for a lot of pharmacies and can tell you that they are money-making machines.


And most of the pharmacists I deal with are quite good.