How Australia’s medicine prices rate against the rest of the world

Australian prices were 25 per cent below the median global cost.

Paying too much for meds?

Chronic disease sufferers commonly complain about the cost of medicine. The same goes for anyone who has an unexpected illness or needs to maintain health through prescription medicines, such as beta-blockers, antidepressants and heart and blood pressure meds.

And while the cost of these medicines may be burning a hole in their pockets, they may be surprised to learn that Australia has some of the cheapest prescription drugs in the world.

The Medbelle 2019 Medicine Price Index has Australia ranked as the 11th most affordable place in the world to buy common prescription drugs.

The drug price index compared the cost of 13 common medications from 50 countries and found, on average, that Australian prices were 25 per cent below the median global cost.

“I wasn’t surprised to see us at the top of the list for affordability,” research fellow at the University of South Australia Anna Kemp-Casey told The New Daily.

“Our Commonwealth does a really good job of negotiating prices for things that go on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.”

In a country where many prescription drugs are subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), Australians do have access to affordable medication.

Thailand, Kenya and Malaysia were the countries with the cheapest drugs, while the US was at the other end of the list with the most expensive pharmaceuticals.

“Mostly, that’s to do with lack of regulation around pricing,” said Dr Kemp-Casey.

“It’s a free market in terms of manufacturers being able to charge what they like, which is not the case in Australia.”

Australia scored high on having low generic drug prices for many common ailments, such as high cholesterol, depression, epilepsy and fibromyalgia. However, some generic drugs, such as some used to treat anxiety and diabetes were still expensive.

“Our ability to negotiate a low price with the manufacturers is much less than another country who is using [a drug] first line … because their market is much bigger,” said Dr Kemp-Casey.

“It makes sense to pay more for something we don’t want to use as much of.

“In terms of things we’d expect people to be using a lot of in Australia … they are the very low-priced ones, and that makes sense.”

Overall, the index’s analysis of 13 types of medicines revealed that generic drug prices in Australia were more than 36 per cent lower than the global median, and branded drug prices were seven per cent cheaper.

Dr Kemp-Casey said that the PBS worked well for people in good health, but for those with chronic illness or multiple diseases, the cost of medicines was still prohibitive.

“It’s not unusual for me to hear about someone who has 15 or 20 different medicines they take in a month,” she said.

“You multiply each one of those by $6.50, and you can start to see how things get very expensive for people, especially for those on low income.”

Do you feel you pay too much for medicine? Or is the PBS generous?

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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    tisme
    29th Nov 2019
    9:36am
    the NHS gives free prescriptions to pensioners
    Mariner
    29th Nov 2019
    10:56am
    Not exactly free but very reasonable, $5.50 this year if you do not insist on the branded product. Some doctors advise against
    using the generic stuff and then you could pay a bit more ($10.25 in my case).
    Tanker
    29th Nov 2019
    4:41pm
    Do you mean the English NHS or the Scottish NHS (they are different). It may be coming to an end depending upon the upcoming election.
    Tanker
    29th Nov 2019
    4:41pm
    Do you mean the English NHS or the Scottish NHS (they are different). It may be coming to an end depending upon the upcoming election.
    notelle
    29th Nov 2019
    11:22am
    Can't complain that I'm paying too much. I recently took a 10 day course of a drug for Cdiff and as a pensioner, paid $6.50. The actual cost of this drug was just over $2000.00. As for all my other PBS prescriptions - I have reached my safety net and now receive my medication for free until the end of the year.
    Hasbeen
    29th Nov 2019
    11:31am
    Yes me too notelle. I don't think it is a really good thing that we require over $1000 of subsidised drugs to keep us alive, or functioning reasonably, but it sure is helpful that we don't have to pay the real price, & all costs stop at $1000.
    Tanker
    29th Nov 2019
    4:49pm
    Our PBS system does work well for most of us but the Free Trade Agreement that was being negotiated with the USA had a clause in it which could well have posed a threat to it. It would have allowed US drug manufacturers to take our Government to court if they passed a law that interfered with those US companies right to set prices of their products within Australia.
    Tanker
    29th Nov 2019
    4:49pm
    Our PBS system does work well for most of us but the Free Trade Agreement that was being negotiated with the USA had a clause in it which could well have posed a threat to it. It would have allowed US drug manufacturers to take our Government to court if they passed a law that interfered with those US companies right to set prices of their products within Australia.
    Blossom
    30th Nov 2019
    8:39pm
    For some people who have chronic debilitating diseases some medications are not on the PBS
    Without them they don't have quality of life at all. Some cost over $1500.00 per month for just one of their medications. Their partners are working extra hours to pay for their medications. Plus they have cost of living expenses. I heard of one case where the daughter-in-law went to work to help pay for her Dad's medication. One couple eats only basic meals, never eats out, no luxuries like going out often, and struggle to stay in housing.
    Blossom
    30th Nov 2019
    8:39pm
    For some people who have chronic debilitating diseases some medications are not on the PBS
    Without them they don't have quality of life at all. Some cost over $1500.00 per month for just one of their medications. Their partners are working extra hours to pay for their medications. Plus they have cost of living expenses. I heard of one case where the daughter-in-law went to work to help pay for her Dad's medication. One couple eats only basic meals, never eats out, no luxuries like going out often, and struggle to stay in housing.
    Fair Dinkum
    3rd Dec 2019
    11:30am
    How can pharmaceutical companies justify the absorbent prices they charge for some medications. Research dose cost a fair bit but I think we are being ripped off by these companies but don't have an option because they have no opposition.
    Arrowmaker
    3rd Dec 2019
    12:43pm
    Hi All
    So I went to the warehouse pharmacy with my BP script. It took forever but only cost $9.95. I normally pay $24 at my local pharmacy!
    So I went to my local pharmacy and asked if they would price match. She looked at the receipt from the warehouse and said "Sure thing". Plus, I can leave my scripts at the pharmacy and they text me when it time to drop past and pick them up. All at price matched rates!

    Give it a go....


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