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Calanna Pharmacy founder Mario Calanna is celebrating 50 years in Pharmacy. Here’s what he had to say when we asked him about the most interesting changes he’s encountered in Pharmacy over the last 50 years.

“So many changes have occurred and Pharmacy has evolved in the past 50 years to better reflect the needs of the community.


  • In 1970 we used manual type writers and had to wet the back of labels before we stuck them onto bottles
  • We purchased many medications in bulk bottles of 500 to 5000. And had to count them and place them in containers according to the set PBS/NHS quantities 9100, 50 or 25). Today they come individually packaged.
  • Each script item had to be manually stamped and coded according to the PBS/NHS regulations.
  • We had to manually write up a repeat form for each item as prescribed by the doctor
  • The range of drugs available was far less than at present – so interactions were easier to deal with.
  • I was excited in 1976 when I was able to purchase an electric typewriter and even pre-program the most common directions – such as ‘Take 1 three times a day’ – by pushing one key.
  • My first Dispense computer was installed in the early 80s. I can recall the excitement when pressing the ENTER button produced a self-adhesive label, printed the codes and the repeat forms.
  • The computer programs were written in DOS (that green flashing line still haunts me). And the printers were dot-matrix – the ones who feed into the printer via the holes on either side of the paper roll.
  • Nearly had a nervous breakdown when the paper would constantly jam and we had to fish out the pieces of paper and feed paper back in. It invariably occurred during a busy time or when you were to close up after a 12 hour day.
  • Initially we used 5 ¼ inch floppy discs to backup data. Then we upgraded to 3 ½ inch discs, then CDs, Tapes and now we have USBs, Hard Disc Drives and Clouds. Still recall using up to 30 floppy discs for a daily backup.
  • Our pricing was sourced by the Perm Index which was updated every three months and most Pharmacies adhered to this pricing system for our over the counter items. Today it all done through Point of Sale Systems.
  • Each day our wholesaler would call and we would read through our list of purchases. We became more sophisticated when product codes were introduced and we could transmit the order quickly by phone using our Data Entry device. Today technology allows a more fluid flow of ordering and electronic invoicing.
  • The 70s and probably some of the 80s were easier in that 7 day trading had not been introduced. Most of us worked from Monday till Saturday midday. Staffing was easier and family life was calmer and more ordered.
  • Over the past 30 years –the economic environment has ‘gone nuts’:
    • Competition has become a big buzz word
    • 7 day trading has become the norm
    • The demand for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Assistances with extra qualifications has out stripped supply
    • The range of drugs has expanded exponentially and so have their potential side-effects
    • Technology has expanded also at a rapid rate to keep pace with the increasing number of dispensing options required to encompass the continual increased complexity of medication prescribing and PBS/NHS options.
  • However the many positive changes have kept up my passion
    • DAAs have become very popular and life changing. These are Dose Administration Aids that allow us to package up to 4 doses a day for 7 days. Individuals or families can now choose to have the Pharmacy pack up their daily doses without having to have multiple medications at home and count them out on a daily basis.
    • The B. Pharmacy degree has increased from a 3 to a 4 year term. Students have a number of placement weeks during these years. In my day I learnt about Retail Pharmacy (including the PBS) after I began my Intern Year. I had no exams to be Registered – just needed the Pharmacy owner to indicate that I had acquired the relevant knowledge and skills. Today – with more medications and regulations – the Intern is required to undertake assignments as well written and oral exams – before being registered.


  • In those early times Pharmacy and Department stores where the ones who sold Hair Colours, Perfumes and Makeup (to name a few)
  • Today the whole landscape of retail has completely changed
  • More and more products have been de-scheduled from Prescription Only, to Pharmacist Only, to Pharmacy Only and then de-scheduled completely. Allowing almost any other retail outlet to sell them.


  • There is no question that as the decades have come – the needs and the expectation of people have changed
  • The pressures of today’s society are far more and much different to previous decades.
  • Marketing, Business Planning, Defining your Mission and Values – have all become more important and critical to providing the environment of care and support.
  • Word of mouth and location served us well in the 70s and 80s – today it a whole different situation. It’s more exciting but it does bring with it a higher element of stress and the need for constant change.
  • However – there are some basic factors that underpin the Marketing and the Mission:
    • People still need a focus on what they need
    • They expect that the offer you Market is experienced in the Pharmacy
    • The public still need to know you care about them and their family
    • People need to ‘feel’ they can trust the Pharmacist and the team

Pharmacy has been and still is one of my fulfilling passions. The philosophy I had on my first day walking into John Brosnan’s Pharmacy in December 1970 is the same one that I have today – “Focus on the person in front of me”

Pharmacy has given me satisfaction in Helping and Serving people. It has allowed me to meet and work with many interesting people from all walks of life. It has allowed me the opportunity to build and foster many friendships and the privilege of being part of many families.

I pursued Pharmacy because as I grew up – our family Pharmacist was trusted. The Pharmacist was integral in community life. As a Pharmacist I have always felt this TRUST and have always aspired to use this TRUST in as noble a way as possible. Pharmacy is a very important cog in the Health of our community. And Pharmacists should wear this TRUST as a badge of Honour and Humility.