Guild shares ACCC’s concerns over Chemist Warehouse deal

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia shares the concerns expressed today by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over the proposed reverse-takeover of Sigma by Chemist Warehouse.

For many decades, the existing community pharmacy model has guaranteed patients access to vital and life-saving medications without putting profit over patient care. Medicines are not ordinary items of commerce.

As a major structural change to the community pharmacy sector, the Guild remains concerned that the reverse takeover of Sigma by Chemist Warehouse will increase prices, reduce service quality and degrade the worldclass healthcare available through Australia’s community pharmacy network.

The Guild is similarly concerned by the potential for discriminatory and/or self-preferencing conduct by Chemist Warehouse, the foreclosing of pharmacies currently supplied by Sigma, and the use of Sigma’s data assets to undermine the competitive position of non-Chemist Warehouse pharmacies.

The Guild encourages all interested parties to make a submission to the ACCC on the specific Issues of Concern by the deadline of 27 June 2024. Those Issues of Concern are:

  • That structural market change may raise barrier to entry and expansion, particularly for independent pharmacies;
  • A reduction in competition in pharmacy retailing;
  • The foreclosure of community pharmacies currently supplied by Sigma;
  • Access to and use of Sigma-supplied independent pharmacies’ data, reducing community pharmacy competition; and
  • Foreclosure of rival suppliers.

State and Territory Governments, through their pharmacy regulators, need to continue to scrutinise complex business models for compliance with existing community pharmacy ownership laws. These laws expressly prohibit non-pharmacist entities, such as a publicly listed company, exerting control or influence over a pharmacy.

The ACCC’s statement that ‘Chemist Warehouse appears to exert significant control or influence over its banner stores, including through high levels of executive ownership of Chemist Warehouse stores’ warrants urgent attention from State and Territory regulators.

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