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Pharmaceutical industry in Australia - statistics & facts

Australia’s multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical market has been growing steadily over the past decade and appears to have maintained this growth despite challenges brought on by the global coronavirus pandemic. In fact, many of the 5.7 thousand pharmacies located across the country experienced an increase in demand throughout 2020. Alongside major pharmaceutical retailers and wholesalers, Australia is also the base of operations for international pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies like CSL and Mayne Pharma.

In the retail space, TerryWhite Chemmart (part of EBOS group) is one of Australia’s largest retail pharmacy chains with around 500 pharmacies located across the country. Other major retail pharmacy franchises include Guardian Pharmacy, Chemist Warehouse, and Priceline Pharmacy. In 2021, as online retail was becoming more established due to the coronavirus pandemic, drugstores and pharmacies were among the most visited physical retail outlets in the country.

The Australian pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry has attracted substantial foreign investment, but despite exports amounting to well over two billion Australian dollars annually, Australia remains a net importer of pharmaceutical goods, importing around four times as much as it exports. The industry is also supported by government investment in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which subsidizes prescription medicines for Australian residents. The scheme is embedded in the country’s health care system and makes PBS listed medicines affordable to those who require them. This is likely to be a significant contribution to prescription medications accounting for the largest revenue share of pharmacies in Australia.

An ageing population and increasing incidences of people living with chronic illnesses has long been a driver in the demand for pharmacy services and prescription products. However, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 further highlighted the value of community pharmacies and the healthcare expertise of pharmacists. Demonstrating that pharmacies are not only retailers of medication, sanitizer and personal goods but also play a part in the country’s public healthcare infrastructure. As such, pharmacies are becoming increasingly integrated into the greater public health agenda, and after the 2018 initiative that saw pharmacies administering influenza vaccines to the community, pharmacies and the registered pharmacist workforce are certainly valuable assets in the fight against COVID-19.

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