Customers at hundreds of WA pharmacies are being asked to join a protest against a Federal Government plan that will allow it to pay the industry less for drugs.
The powerful Pharmacy Guild will today launch its Perth campaign, which includes signs and petitions in 500 pharmacies warning customers that the Government's cost-cutting move will threaten suburban chemists, cost jobs and jeopardise services.
In its economic statement just before it called the election, the Government announced it would save $835 million over four years by changing the timing of so-called price disclosure from 18 months to 12 months from October next year.
The system allows the Government to assess the prices pharmacists pay suppliers for medicines and then adjust the amount it pays pharmacists, which more often than not is a lower amount. The shorter cycle of price adjustment means pharmacists will be paid less in shorter intervals.
The guild claims it will be difficult for some community pharmacies to stay afloat, and that will cost jobs and jeopardise traditional pharmacy services such as home-delivered medications to the elderly.
It says the change was decided without any consultation and will leave the average community pharmacy $90,000 out of pocket in 2014-15.
Though the Government says it will save patients millions of dollars a year, the guild's WA branch director Matt Tweedie says consumers are being conned into thinking it will mean lower drug prices.
"Our members are really wild about what is a breach of good faith with community pharmacies which have worked with the Government to give savings to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme," he said.
"In WA, people are already planning to lay off staff, and that might include the second pharmacist."
But the Consumers Health Forum has warned people against signing the petitions and says they should tell their local MPs they want cheaper drugs, "not richer pharmacy owners".