Many pharmacies in WA are struggling to stay afloat, with at least one going bankrupt in the past 12 months and dozens more bracing for financial hardship by reducing staff hours and opening times.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says more than 120 pharmacies went bankrupt across the country last year - more than the number in the previous decade - and claims a major bank has hundreds more businesses on watch.
Locally, at least one pharmacy has gone to the wall, while others have been sold at the death-knock to avoid their owners going bankrupt.
Pharmacy Guild WA president Lenette Mullen said she was aware of at least another three WA pharmacies in serious financial trouble because of the rising cost of their leases.
She said overall staff hours had fallen about 3 per cent in the past year as owners faced higher wage bills and were electing to do more hours themselves.
While pharmacies had faced a tough time like many businesses in the past decade, a series of factors had tipped the scales in the past 18 months.
"Many are hanging in there making less than wages and sometimes selling their business is the better option than seeing it go under," she said. "Some are now on the brink of going out of business and could easily tip over the edge.
"You can keep working at less than wages for a little while but not forever."
The guild has organised an industry forum in Perth in August which for some has now turned into more of a crisis meeting to help them stay in the black. Of the 380 pharmacies in the metropolitan area, 200 are sending their owners or managers to the forum.
Ms Mullen said there was also a hidden toll, with five or six pharmacies on the market each month as owners sought to change hands rather than go under. Others were taking on younger pharmacists as business partners to share the financial load and long hours.
Sunny Narula, State manager and national director of the Chemist Warehouse chain, said some pharmacists were not competitive enough and charged unrealistic mark-ups. <div class="endnote">