Priceline pharmacy is facing boycott threats after displaying political flyers in its stores – and even attaching them to customers’ scripts.
The flyers criticised the Albanese government, claiming that patients were at risk of prescription medicine shortages due major pharmacy reform.
The flyers, which appeared to be authorised by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia state “you and your loved ones are at risk of prescription medicine shortages due to the Albanese Labor Government”.
Another version of the flyer reads: “Medicine shortages just got worse due to an irresponsible decision by the Albanese Labor Government”.
Priceline faces criticism and boycotts threats after displaying political flyers. Picture: TwitterOne customer said this pamphlet was attached to their script. Picture: Twitter
Using a QR code, the flyers also directed consumers to a website authorised by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia titled “Essential Medicine Shortages”.
Priceline’s support for the Guild’s campaign against the government’s plan to introduce 60-day dispensing was received poorly by customers who saw the flyers in stores.
“Went to local Priceline pharmacy today. Took this photo at the door and went in to tell them, ‘I wanted to tell you you’ve just lost a customer because of the sign at the door,’” a woman who snapped one of the flyers at her local store in Brisbane explained.
“This sign misrepresents the facts. I will no longer shop at Priceline,” one wrote in a tweet which has now attracted hundreds of retweets and thousands of likes.
“They have plenty of time between now and October for stock levels to ensure this doesn’t happen,” Justice Aunties, an Indigenous rights group wrote.
“Silly Priceline! #BoycottPriceline,” tweeted another
One customer reported even having a flyer attached to their script.
“I wish I’d seen it before I got home. I would have given it back to them,” they wrote.
Priceline has been contacted for comment and it is understood the flyers and posters are being shared at a number of other pharmacies.
Will never shop at any priceline again. This is an appalling sign, clearly designed to frighten people who are reliant on prescription medications. Incredibly irresponsible from a healthcare provider. https://t.co/gk9nk4DISc
â€” Felicity Reynolds (@FlickReynolds) May 9, 2023
The campaign against the government’s plan to introduce 60-day dispensing requires pharmacists to double the dispensed amount of more than 300 medicines.
Before the Albanese government lowered the co-payment to $30 in January, patients were paying $42.50 for one month’s supply.
Under the new two-for-one deal, instead of paying $85 for two scripts, patients purchasing eligible medicines will pay just $30.
Concessional patients will now pay $7.30 per 60-day script.
However, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and other pharmacists oppose the savings, arguing that it could spark medicine shortages and short-change pharmacists.
The posters and flyers appear to be the latest in a sustained campaign against the government’s major pharmacy reform. Picture: TwitterSigns carry a QR code that takes customers to a website authorised by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. Picture: Twitter
The flyers displayed in Priceline stores brandished a QR code to a website authorised by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, which claimed that “Unless the Federal Government reverses its decision, giving extra medicines to patients, via 60-day dispensing, will make medicine shortages worse and more Australians will go without.”
The government, however, has accused the Guild of running a blatant misinformation campaign.
Last week, the Guild took aim at a casting call offering $5000 to pharmacists and pharmacy assistants for a new ad it claimed was commissioned by the Australian government.
However, the Albanese government has denied commissioning any advertising for its 60-day dispensing policy and accused the Pharmacy Guild of spreading misinformation.
“This is not a casting call for a government advertising campaign,” a spokeswoman said.
“The government has not commissioned any advertising for its 60-day dispensing policy.
“This is another example of misinformation from the pharmacy lobby about a government policy which will deliver significant savings and cheaper medicines to more than 6 million patients across Australia.”
The Pharmacy Guild has vehemently opposed the policy, arguing that it will result in a $3.5 billion cut in patient care to communities over the next four years. The Guild’s economic modelling, using data provided by the Department of Health, suggests that the policy will save the government $1.2 billion in dispensing fees but require community pharmacies to pay $2.3 billion in patient fees.
Pharmacy Guild of Australia National President Trent Twomey. Picture: Jason Edwards
The National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Trent Twomey, has called on the government to return the $3.5 billion to community pharmacies to ensure that patients receive the care and medicines they need with the casting call for the ad only adding fuel to the debate.
Australian Patients Association Dr Nick Coatsworth has praised the cost savings to consumers but warned that the policy’s implementation must be carefully considered.
“We’re concerned about the implementation of this policy, and the detail is important. For example, currently, large numbers of drugs are in short supply, and these changes could lead to patients missing out on medications due to those shortages,” he said.
“Secondly, the experience of other countries suggests that we can expect increases in hoarding of drugs by consumers, increasing numbers of tablets being stored in cupboards, which coincides with increases in medication errors.
“Overflowing home medication cupboards is a safety hazard. Imagine the grandchildren coming around and getting into a cupboard with 450 pills in it,” he said.
RACGP president Dr Nicole Higgins
The government, however, has the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners on its side, which labels it “a win for patients”.
Dr Higgins urged the nation’s leaders to remain steadfast.
“Beware of scare campaigns,” RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said.
“A recent Westpac report found that pharmacies are reaping record profits, with the total consumer spending in pharmacies rising from $92.5 million in July 2019 to more than $123 million in January this year.
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“Also, despite what you hear from the Pharmacy Guild, there is no evidence of a shortage of the medications that are included in today’s announcement.
“Some pharmacy owners may be concerned that they will lose retail sales; however, at the end of the day cheaper access to lifesaving medications must come before retail sales, it’s as simple as that.”