An investigation by News Corp Australia found that patients may have to pay nearly four times the cost of their medications just because of their place of residence.

According to the Herald Sun, the difference in drug prices in different regions is the result of the law. The law grants pharmacists a monopoly on owning pharmacies, and at the same time prevents new pharmacists from operating within 1.5 kilometers of existing pharmacies, and prohibits supermarkets from selling drugs.

Federal government rules also mean that new pharmacies must be located within 500 meters of a full-time prescription doctor and a small supermarket, or within 500 meters of a large supermarket.

The review of the three levels of Australian government found that these location regulations would harm consumers' interests and push up drug prices, and called for the termination of these regulations.

Current regulations have turned pharmacies into a multi-million dollar industry. Depending on where they live, consumers may have to pay 15 Australian dollars more for the same medicine, and patients in remote areas bear a heavier burden.

News Corp. conducted a survey of 40 pharmacies in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. The prices of the 10 most commonly used prescription drugs under the "Pharmaceutical Benefits Program" (PBS) have a large price gap.

In Victoria, the antibiotics Amoxicillin and Cefalexin are priced at A$5.60 at the Chemist Warehouse in Prahran, A$12.50 at UPharmacy in Richmond, and A$15 at Amcal pharmacy in Bendigo.

In Victoria, the highest and lowest prices of the anti-cholesterol drug Rosuvastatin were 23.20 Australian dollars and 5.99 Australian dollars respectively; the highest and lowest prices of Metformin for the treatment of diabetes were 22.40 Australian dollars and 7.99 Australian dollars respectively.

In Queensland, patients who buy the same drug at the AFS pharmacy in Rockhampton need to pay A$23.29; at the Friendlies Chemist pharmacy in Townsville, they need to pay A$18; at the Brisbane Chemist Warehouse pharmacy, they only need to pay A$8.99.

The investigation also found that the owner of the same pharmacy would charge three different prices for the same medicine in three pharmacies owned by him in different locations. In the Vermont pharmacy run by the President of the Australian Pharmaceutical Association (George Tambassis), Rosuvatatin is priced at A$12.95, but the drug is sold at his other pharmacy in Cowes for A$11.50 and in his Brunswick pharmacy. The price is AUD 9.95.

Tambass said: "In the open market, if costs are different, wages, employee levels, and rents are different, but pharmacies charge the same price, then frankly, this idea is unrealistic."