Two of Australia's largest independent pharmacy networks have announced a merger that will service a fifth of the nation's pharmacies, bringing together close to 1,200 members who dispense more than one million scripts per week.
Melbourne-headquartered Pharmacy Alliance and Sydney-based Pharmacy Platform have joined forces to form The Platform Alliance Group (PAG), uniting two networks of independent pharmacist-owned and led operations into an organisation that is now the largest of its kind in the country.
The announcement comes around a week out from Australian Pharmaceutical Industries (API) shareholders voting on whether to become part of Wesfarmers Group (ASX: WES), the owner of Priceline.
The newly formed network - whose brands include Alliance Pharmacy, Advantage Pharmacy, Chemist Discount Centre alongside non-branded pharmacies - has around two-thirds of API's annual pharmacy revenue.
"One in five pharmacies in Australia are now serviced by PAG and as a group we have a turnover of $2 billion in total sales – it’s clear to me, we are stronger together. Our purpose is simple, we want a strong future for independent pharmacy across Australia," says Pharmacy Platform founder and pharmacist Steve Kastrinakis on behalf of the PAG board.
Pharmacy Platform itself was formed just two years ago from the merger of Advantage Group and Instigo, while Pharmacy Alliance was started by second generation pharmacist Simon Reynolds in 2002.
The newly formed PAG also supports 2,500 pharmacies across the country, making it the largest independent pharmacy service provider in Australia.
The group highlights the years of experience of its founder pharmacists, including Michael Flannery of Instigo, as well as the expertise of entrepreneur and independent pharmacy advocate Dennis Bastas, and newly appointed CEO Dave Fenlon, formerly CEO of BWX (ASX: BWX) and managing director Australia & NZ at Blackmores (ASX: BLK) before that.
"PAG now has a powerhouse of expertise from both organisations in pharmacy operations, merchandise/category management, marketing, technology, logistics and distribution and human resource management to provide unparalleled support to independent pharmacy owners," says Bastas.
PAG prides itself on community support in a rapidly changing industry, which due to COVID-19 has become an attractive investment opportunity for large corporations outside the industry.
The group claims today's step has been taken to "protect the interests of individual independent pharmacy partners and to improve and integrate support solutions that grow their pharmacies", in an environment where operators have been under significant pressure with the added responsibility of administering COVID-19 vaccinations and experiencing staff shortages due to virus-related isolation mandates.
In the longer term PAG will enhance and integrate their combined comprehensive suite of services, programs and pharmacy brands to allow independent pharmacists to be more agile and adapt to their community’s health needs in more quickly.
"The team that looks after the pharmacies today will look after them into the future," says Fenlon.
"As such pharmacy members will continue their current membership with either Pharmacy Alliance or Pharmacy Platform and will continue to have a direct relationship with the respective operations teams or support offices as they do today."
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