Professional pharmacists choose patients over profits
Imagine for one scary moment that you’ve just been diagnosed with a very serious medical condition.
In shock you walk out of the doctor’s office with a script for a medication to treat your new illness and into the local pharmacy.
As you nervously wait for your script to be filled you notice that the pharmacist has not only prepared your medication, but has also grabbed a bottle of Blackmores vitamin pills off the shelf after looking at their computer screen and she puts both bottles into your hand.
Willing to try anything to deal with your newly diagnosed medical problem you walk straight off to the cash register to pay. After all, the nice young woman in the white coat clearly reckons the vitamins would help.
Thankfully this scenario is never going to happen. For one, APESMA knows that most pharmacists would never offer any product that wasn’t scientifically proven to help an individual patient anyway.
But the really troubling thing is that the ‘Pharmacy Owners Guild’* clearly thought otherwise.
And the scenario above is exactly what the Pharmacy Owners Guild wanted when it recently brokered a deal to prompt the 94 per cent of pharmacies using their computer system to routinely upsell Blackmores’ products alongside medications for serious medical conditions.
When talking about the deal the Chief Executive of Blackmores even lauded it as the “Coke and fries” to sell alongside serious medications.
It’s a disgusting way to champion a new scheme to exploit people during a highly vulnerable time of their lives.
But the move was supported by sharemarket analysts who said the pharmacy owners would benefit from “increased commercial focus on their non-dispensary offering”.
Unfortunately the analyst didn’t say what would happen to the household budgets of patients struggling with the cost of possibly unnecessary vitamin tablets on top of the new medical bills and the new cost of medications. But thanks to a strong community campaign we exposed the serious problems this commercial deal creates for patients and professional pharmacists alike.
Pharmacists are highly skilled professionals and they reacted angrily when they were told that the Pharmacy Owners Guild wanted them to sell more vitamin products.
For many of them it was the final straw. And the Blackmores deal is just one symptom of how much the pharmacy profession is being torn apart by industry forces much more interested in profits than patients.
This pressure often comes from pharmacy owners represented by the Pharmacy Guild.
And despite their weak denials the Guild was deliberately trying to generate profit out of the reputation that pharmacists have worked hard for. To use marketing terminology it is trying to cash in on the pharmacists ‘brand’.
According to a recent poll pharmacists are the sixth most trusted profession in Australia out of a list of 45.
But this will slip if pharmacists are seen to be pushing products upon those that don’t want them, don’t need them and cannot afford to pay for them.
Patients that have just been diagnosed with serious medical conditions deserve proper and tailored medical advice and not be subject to marketing tricks dreamt up by the Pharmacy owners Guild.
Unfortunately in the lust for new ways to make profits the Pharmacy Owners Guild could have permanently damaged the standing of individual pharmacists in our community.
Shortly after the Guild’s “Coke and fries” deal was announced an APESMA member and pharmacist was abused in the street by a passer-by who saw a pharmacy logo on his bag.
“I suppose you’re just going to flog me some Blackmores products,” the man said disdainfully.
Needless to say this wouldn’t have happened if the Pharmacy Owners Guild had properly considered the repercussions of its grubby deal and how it might affect pharmacists around Australia.
I have had to repeatedly remind people that it wasn’t the pharmacists who entered into this deal – it was the Guild that represents the owners of pharmacies.
Now that the Guild has backflipped on implementing this grubby plan it has arrogantly refused to admit that it compromised the integrity of professional pharmacists instead blaming “media reporting of the endorsement which was ill-informed and inflammatory.”
And this is the rub; the Guild is evidently all too keen to embrace a similar deal in the future, as long as pharmacists and the media don’t get wind of it.
That’s why we are calling on everyone to keep a close watch out for the next deal that comes along, for patients’ sake and for the sake of this great health profession.
* The real name, of course, is just the Pharmacy Guild. But we wanted to make it really clear that it was the pharmacy owners, not the pharmacists themselves who were responsible for this deal.
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