Pharmacy advertising statin to the public

A pharmacy chain is advertising free generic atorvastatin direct to the public, with the Therapeutic Goods Administration now investigating if the ads are legal.

The arrival of the first generic versions of the blockbuster drug in April has created a fierce squabble for market share.

However, there are concerns that the stoush is taking Australia a step towards direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines.

In the latest move for market share, Chemist Warehouse has taken out ads in several major newspapers saying: "Generic Lipitor now available from $0."

The ads list the prices for branded and generic atorvastatin, including $35.40 for Lipitor, $19.99 for Ranbaxy's generic Trovas and $0 for Sandoz's generic atorvastatin.

All initial scripts for the Sandoz product will be dispensed at $0, the ad says, with all subsequent prescriptions dispensed from $14.99.

Sandoz has said it did not provide free stock to Chemist Warehouse. It appears the pharmacy is doing it to lock patients into a particular generic, however it refused to speak with Australian Doctor.

Chemists are allowed to publish price lists for prescription drugs under TGA regulations.

But the ads have caused outcry from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

PSA National President Grant Kardachi said: “Advertisements like this do not take into account quality use of medicines issues which are paramount in ensuring the best possible health outcomes for patients."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Ageing said the TGA is investigating whether there has been any breach of the advertising requirements.

But she added there was nothing illegal about Chemist Warehouse offering free atorvastatin.

"The Government has worked hard to make medicines more affordable to consumers. That’s why we also welcome competition on both price and service in the community pharmacy sector," she said.