Call for bigger pharmacy discounts for cheaper PBS medicines

Australian Medical Association

The AMA has written to the federal government calling on it to drive reforms to make medicines cheaper by allowing pharmacists to offer bigger discounts for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines that have a co-payment.

Restricting discounting of only $1 on a range of medicines is “bizarre” and short-changing patients who cannot afford medications for chronic conditions, says AMA President Professor Steve Robson.

The AMA has written to Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler asking for rules to be scrapped that restrict pharmacists to only a $1 discount on prescriptions covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) with a co-pay.

“They can’t discount any more than a single dollar. It’s a bizarre system that stops the market making medicine cheaper for all of us,” Professor Robson said.

Professor Robson said such a move would help consumers, who are skipping medicines because of the cost, which has been a persistent problem according to successive Productivity Commission Reports on Government Services.

Grattan Institute research last year found that “nearly 50 per cent of the out-of-pocket payments by people with at least one chronic condition are on prescribed medications” and that “people with chronic illness skip pharmaceuticals at 2.5 times the rate of people without a chronic condition”.

Professor Robson said it was disastrous for both patients and the health system for people to be skipping medications because of cost, with patients inevitably getting sicker and sometimes ending up in emergency rooms.

“The AMA has proposed a simple policy solution that won’t hurt the budget bottom line but will make a significant difference to patients. Allowing pharmacies greater opportunities to discount medicines will make medicines more affordable and encourage competition,” he said.

The AMA is campaigning to bring down out-of-pocket costs of medicines for patients to relieve cost of living pressures.

It says the implementation of a five-year-old recommendation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to increase the maximum dispensed quantities of some PBS items from one month’s to two month’s supply could save patients up to $180 a year on selected PBS medicines.

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