TASMANIAN pharmacies are protesting against the federal government's plan to lower the cost of drugs more regularly, saying it will force them to cut jobs and free services.
But consumer groups are warning people not to support the campaign, saying Australians should not have to pay inflated prices for prescription medicines.
As part of changes to the price disclosure regime for PBS medicines, announced earlier this month, the government will cut drug mark-ups more often after the patents expire.
The move, which will see the government pay pharmacies less for drugs, is expected to save $830 million over four years.
Perth Pharmacy owner Diane Porteous said she had cut two full-time jobs this month because of falling revenues, and feared she would have to cut more when the changes came into effect in October 2014.
"I'm also worried we would have to cut free services. One of the biggest we offer is free delivery of scripts and pick- up and delivery of urgent medication," Ms Porteous said.
"If we had to cut our service, that would leave a lot of our most vulnerable - the elderly and chronically ill who can't get to a pharmacy - in a bad position."
The Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Choice and the Australian Council of Social Services started their own campaign this week to counter pharmacy efforts, saying Australia's price cuts still lagged behind other countries such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
CHF chief executive officer Carol Bennett said pharmacies needed to move away from relying on inflated subsidies for prescription drugs and towards health service delivery.
But pharmaceutical Society of Australia state president Shane Jackson, who owns pharmacies at Nubeena and South Arm, said rural and regional pharmacies needed the subsidies to be able to provide free services like deliveries, blood pressure testing and the provision of test strips to diabetics.
"There will be all this accelerated reduction in pricing and that's fine. But then the pharmacies doing these services that the community expects and the community relies on, they need to be paid for that," Mr Jackson said.