Upper House passes Pharmacy Amendment Act

The Senate has passed legislation to force registration of not only licensed pharmacies, but wholesale pharmaceutical businesses as well, in an effort to protect consumers and regulate the industry. But a Government senator has argued that the Pharmacy Amendment Act 2011 lacks adequate protection for the companies it targets.

The legislation, introduced by Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Dr Errol Cort, widens the functions of the Pharmacy Council and forces registration of not only licensed pharmacies, but wholesale pharmaceutical businesses as well, among other measures. The legislation also requires that premises for storing medications are up to standard.

Members of the Upper House welcomed the legislation, acknowledging that it would provide a needed shield for consumers against fly-by-night pharmaceutical operators.

“I believe the measures outlined will ensure that some of these cowboy organisations that enter the pharmaceutical field will be kept out,” Senator McKenzie Frank said in his contribution.

“I know for a fact that this whole thing of conning people with generic medications is a very large scale business, especially in the Third World nations, and I’m glad that now we’re putting into place a situation where wholesale suppliers and retailers have to be properly examined by a registrar and processes put into place that would ensure the public has a proper and good supply of medication,” he added.

Although commending the legislation for making sure businesses comply with regulations, Senator Colin Derrick suggested that it does not provide protection for pharmaceutical companies in cases where it must compete with overseas companies when the Board of the Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS) puts pharmaceuticals to tender.

He pointed out that because local companies have to comply with several regulations, their tenders tend to be far more expensive than those submitted by foreign companies that do not have to observe the same rules.

Senator Derrick suggested that Antigua & Barbuda follow the lead of countries like Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados which ensure local companies are on a more level playing field with overseas businesses submitting tenders to their respective medical benefit schemes.

Senator Derrick said that matter should be addressed urgently.


(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)