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Australian patients will get half-price medicines in PBS shift

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Hundreds of common medicines are set to be available for prescription two months at a time and at half price following a Government decision.
Half-price medicines

The Government has announced half-priced medicines for hundreds of common prescriptions, with prescriptions also to shift to two months at a time instead of one.

This could save patients up to $180 a year per medicine and will also save the Government money because it will reduce GP and pharmacy visits. It is expected to take effect on 1 September. The move has been welcomed by GPs but criticised by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

How medicines are paid for

The Federal Government subsidises medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The Government caps how much a patient has to pay for a medicine and pays for the rest itself.

When medicines require a prescription, the Government also subsidises GP consultations and pays pharmacists a fee for dispensing.

Some people (including Age Pension and JobSeeker recipients) are classified as ‘concessional’ patients and get an additional discount.

Half-price medicines, two months at a time

For over 320 prescription medicines, the Government will allow doctors to prescribe two months at a time if appropriate for the patient. The double dose will be available for the same price as a current single dose.

A typical patient will save up to $180 per medicine each year. A concessional patient will save up to $43.80, on top of their already-subsidised prices.

The Government will also save on GP consultations and pharmacist fees. It plans to use any savings from the half-priced medicines to invest in community pharmacies.

Endorsed by experts

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC), a group of independent experts who advise the Government on PBS medicines, recommended this change in 2018.

At the time, PBAC said it would give GPs “greater choice” and patients “financial and convenience benefits”.

Industry divided

The proposal was “warmly welcomed” by the Royal Australian College of GPs, who said it would “save patients money and time”. The Australian Medical Association called it “terrific news” and added it would take pressure off the health system.

However, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia criticised the proposal, claiming it would ‘guarantee’ medicine shortages and create a “Hunger Games stand-off… where some patients get double the medicine they need, while others get nothing”. (Note: the proposal does not allow patients to access more medicine over the course of a year than they do now).

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