Pharmacies and competition

15/09/2004

This was the question I asked — tongue in cheek, herbal almost a year ago — in The Agora. How come that I bought a bottle of ‘organic water’ in this web +tasmania&ie=UTF8&z=12&iwloc=addr&om=1″>Scamander (north-eastern Tasmania), doctor or the high prices for crappy ‘organic tomatoes’ (small, full of blemishes and tasting no different from a normal one), or the resistance against GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) in many parts of the world?

I have participated in a few discussions about GMO and some people have a visceral reaction against them, because they are unnatural. Well, plastics, planes, cars, computers are unnatural and we happily interact with them in a day to day basis. People eat varieties of crops and fruits that are the result of mutations induced through radiation exposure, but they will complain against GMO plants. People complain against cloning, but they will buy apple or rose varieties that are, in fact, a clone. What does make a chimera, clone or GMO so different from a ‘natural’ organism?

Similar issues arise with the distinction between native and exotic animals, for example. Of course exotic animals must be native to somewhere in the planet. A related distinction is often made between ‘cute and furry’ and ugly animals. Thusly, people complain about poisoning a possum, but will happily eat a beef steak or a chicken burger, poison a spider (normally native) or squash an insect (probably native too).

I have no answer for this situation, but my sense of curiosity makes me wonder about the differential treatment given to living organisms based mostly on cultural codes.

In June I made some comments on how chemists (pharmacies) were stifling competition. That was a comment solely based on my experience dealing with them. Ten days ago Choice Magazine, ed
owned by the Australian Consumers’ Association, angina
published a report on the quality of advice and pricing provided by pharmacies.

Access to the report requires paid subscription (which I have), click
but the main findings were made public. The study included 87 seven pharmacies in Sydney, the Wollongong area and Adelaide, and found that:

  • Advice given in 58 out of the 87 pharmacies we visited was rated ‘poor’ by our experts. The pharmacy profession needs to improve the quality of advice being given to consumers.
  • Speaking to a pharmacist rather than a pharmacy assistant didn’t guarantee good advice.
  • In a price spot-check of two of the products our researchers bought, the most expensive of each product in a supermarket was still cheaper than the cheapest pharmacy price for the same item.

The report also claimed that:

…there’s some evidence that restricting pharmacy ownership may be limiting competition and make prices for some medicines higher than they would otherwise be, and the results of our spot-check seem to support this.

Sadly, it seems that my experience with pharmacies was not an exception at all.

Filed in economics, politics

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  1. 11/01/2008Quantum Forest » Blog Archive » Protectionism under other names say:

    [...] This post has a follow up in September 2004. [...]

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