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- Issue 81: April 2009
- Issue 80: March 2009
- Issue 79: February 2009
- Issue 78: December 2008
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Is the Guild under Siege?

Chris Wright
Dispensary Systems Perspective

Issue 79: February 2009
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The pages of i2P will this month no doubt be full of comment about the article penned in the Financial Review on December 30. It is doubtful the guild found the exquisitely vicious piece to their liking.
I mean, bragging over the profits of jellybeans in the same article that states the guild has the view pharmacists are community service providers, not retailers.
Give me a break!

Here’s your DiabexXR, madam.
Would you like some jellybeans to go?
After all, we have deliberately placed them right under your nose at the pay station!

I accept that the ubiquitous but venerated jellybeans are favoured by diabetics because of their ability to abort the “hypo hit” that accompanies treatment.
I also concede that Glucogels have no peer.
Aficionados generally debate colour preference rather than comparison to other brands.
There is no meaningful comparison - Glucogels seriously rock!

A “guild source” was quoted in the Financial Review article as saying;

“You know those jellybeans you get in pharmacies? We make several million dollars profit a year just on those.”

Unfortunately, this sounds like something capable of escaping the precious lips of Paris Hilton as she wriggles herself into the back seat of her Bentley after a night on the tiles.

What a pity the “guild source” did not take the opportunity to promote the undoubted attributes of Glucogels, rather than skite about the money tree they provide so as to pay the no doubt inflated salary of the “source”. 

Even if the guild “only” makes 1 miserable million per year out of their members selling “their” product, each member would, on average, profit handsomely to the tune of about three and sixpence……let’s face it, the guild is enjoying prime product positioning in every pharmacy by graciously allowing their members to sell the endorsed “union” product………..one can only speculate as to whether or not guild branded plasma TV’s, toasters and lawnmowers will soon take up pride of position within close proximity to the professional services area of those pharmacies whose proprietors consistently follow guild instructions to the letter.

This writer is not about to burst into flames over comments in the article regarding deregulation, it’s all been said before.

 However, both "sides" tend to rely on statistics and facts garnered from off-shore circumstances to highlight the veracity of their respective arguments.

Many of these comparisons are either empirical or distorted due to the fact our system is not replicated anywhere else in its entirety.

Whatever direction pharmacy is this country takes; it should have no bearing on off-shore aspects, whether they are positive or otherwise.

The Guild is obviously a powerful force………Tony Soprano, eat your heart out!
As a lobby group they have no peer, the problem they have is that they have too much power, and no doubt all manner of people and bodies are looking forward to that power being…..er, is “reduced” a good word?
It will do, I guess, but “vaporised” would be preferred by many.

The federal government must be getting seriously sick and tired of dishing out megabucks to a “Union” capable of making $24mil a year.

The federal government must also be getting seriously sick and tired of the guild arbitrarily denying access to industry providers of goods and services in favour of those “playing the game”, thereby costing the taxpayer big-time.

There is good argument to suggest the “forced” exclusion of a number of products and services offered to pharmacy has been to the detriment of the taxpayer (and patient) and the eternal gratification to the guild, either financially or emotionally. 

In all conscious, the federal government must view the guild through more pragmatic eyes if they are to succeed in managing PBS exposure post the next agreement.

This writer believes the power of the guild has been built on a platform not as secure as the guild would have everybody believe.

For one, the guild claims its 4200 members (is 4200 correct, I wonder?) “See” 95% of the population each year.

 Hmmm, I wonder how this can be.

I won’t bore you with subjective statistics, but it is reasonable to suggest that a member of the public is more likely to have a meaningful interaction with a member of the PSA, rather than the PGA.
At a guess, I would suggest patients are more likely to confront PGA members in pharmacies actioning up to about 175 prescriptions per day.
On the other hand, PSA members are more likely to interact with patients in pharmacies actioning more than 175 (or thereabouts) per day.

Equally, it is true that “old fashioned” smaller pharmacies are a dying breed, yet they remain emotionally dependent upon the guild to give them relevance and are financially dependent upon the guild to lead the way for them. 

Mere statistics don’t always tell the story. The guild uses ambiguous language that would have the public believe that every pharmacy stocks 3,600 lines, 3,350 of them unprofitable. Yes, some lines may be marginally profitable, but do pharmacies stock them all?
Of course not!

The guild has long had everybody believe their “power” rests with their membership.
The truth is, their “power” exists simply because the industry employee’s organisation (being the PSA) does not make a truckload of money every year engaging in all manner of profitable activity which denies them the opportunity to compete with the guild for “emotional space”.

Pharmacists, by their very nature and training want to be in control, lead and give instructions.

 I add without a hint of humour that I’m a bit of an expert at understanding this particular predilection that they covet.

By steadfastly supporting the guild pharmacists maintain a level of emotional satisfaction and control by default. 
This is of course consistent with belonging to a union.
Just imagine the power of a union capable of enriching itself to the tune of $24mil per annum, whose members brandish blue shirts, complete with an image of the Eureka flag emblazoned on their hairy chests as they throw beer cans at police during protest marches!

Maybe pharmacists could wear Eureka blue headbands and brandish bottles of the magnificent Willows Bonesetter Shiraz 2003 from the Barossa and a nice cheese platter at such demonstrations.

The guild buys space in about 25 publications, which encourages editorial veto of less than flattering comment about their self-styled and uniquely magnificent quest to hold power over all and sundry.
The virtues of the guild are unashamedly directed towards the patient/public, yet this same guild apparently condones the promotion and sale of Panamax in some pharmacies in a manner best described as; “commercially advantageous, and without due care”.

Surely bleating about the profit made from jellybeans and the blatant promotion of the teenage suicide drug of choice is not a good way to promote the notion of pharmacy being a “community service provider”.

Too much power is dangerous for all stakeholders, and the guild are in the stratosphere of power.
The time has come for the government to act in the interest of taxpayers and patients and stop pandering to elitist union executives.

Chris Wright

February 2009.


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