CALLS for a new cut-price chemist in Wagga must be tempered by two distinct economic realities.
Firstly, the need to protect jobs and locally owned small businesses.
Secondly, the right of residents in NSW’s largest inland city to access affordable pharmaceuticals.
How legislators walk the tightrope between these two disparate factors has been an issue for decades. As it stands, federal laws prohibit a new chemist entering the Wagga market if it’s in the proximity of an existing chemist. This form of protectionism restricts competition, limits consumer choice and, by keeping prices artificially high, could deter some people from seeking treatment.
But it also ensures responsible pharmacists are not forced out by snake oil salesmen and voracious supermarket chains.
Health is too serious a matter to be foisted on the free market so regulators must decide how to maintain the integrity of chemists while still offering consumers choice. At the moment, they are failing to achieve that.
It’s absurd that Wagga residents are paying demonstrably higher amounts for essential health items than people in smaller centres like Griffith. A cut-price pharmacist like Chemist Warehouse would benefit the vast majority of locals, particularly our most vulnerable, without overly compromising service. It would force down prices across the board and help ease pressure on beleaguered household budgets.
The prescription is right. It’s time the government filled it.
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