Savings on wide range of PBS medication set to start

pharmacists distributing pbs medicines

More than 2000 medications on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) will become cheaper from tomorrow in what the Albanese government says is the biggest cut to medication costs in the 75 years of the scheme.

Health minister Mark Butler says the legislation introduced into Parliament this week cuts the maximum price of PBS medicines for general patients by 29 per cent, from a cap of $42.50 to a cap of $30. The move will deliver out-of-pocket savings of over $130 million to patients and almost $930 million in savings for taxpayers, he says.

People being treated for migraines, psoriatic arthritis, breast cancer, stomach ulcers and bipolar disorder are among those who will have access to cheaper medicines.

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From 1 October:

  • up to half a million patients with stomach ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease can expect to pay a maximum $26.74 per script for Esomeprazole 40 milligram tablets – a saving of up to $6.84 per script
  • more than 20,000 migraine and epilepsy sufferers can expect to pay $34.90 per script for Topiramate 200 milligram tablets – a saving of up to $6.63
  • patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder could save up to $6.22 per script
  • about 15,000 patients suffering from severe psoriatic arthritis and taking Leflunomide 20 milligram tablets can expect to pay $37.19 per script, saving up to $5.31 per script
  • about 13,000 women annually using Anastrozole to inhibit breast cancer progression can expect to pay $22.07 per script and save up to $2.36 per script.

The PBS listings have also been expanded with the addition of immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab (or Keytruda) that would otherwise cost more than $135,000 per course; Bavencio, which treats cancers affecting the bladder and urinary tract, and Inqovi, which treats myelodysplastic syndromes and chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia.

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Mr Butler said: “The Bureau of Statistics has told us that as many as 900,000 Australians every single year are forced to go without medicines their doctor has prescribed for their health, [medicines] their doctor has said is important for the maintenance of good health.

“And pharmacist after pharmacist has told me stories of their customers … putting a number of scripts on their counter, then asking for advice about which ones they can go without because they can’t afford to fill [all of them].”

Mr Butler also reminded us that PBS co-payments will be reduced from the current maximum of $42.50 per script to a maximum of $30 per script from 1 January 2023.

For a more comprehensive list of affected medications and treatments, go here.

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Yuting Zhang, professor of health economics at Melbourne University, believes the government has missed a chance to better target the PBS cost cuts.

She says research shows that just under 7 per cent of older Australians don’t buy their prescribed medications because they are too expensive. This pushes up future health costs as conditions go untreated and complications arise, leading to emergency care and hospital visits, she wrote in The Conversation.

“… there are ways of lowering the co-payment for certain medicines, in particular those that control life-threatening conditions and prevent hospitalisation.

“These medicines include those used to treat asthma, severe mental disorders (such as severe depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder), heart disease and diabetes.

“The government could consider lowering the co-payment for these medicines, especially for people with multiple chronic conditions and on lower incomes.”

Do these cost cuts make a significant difference to your life? Could the money be better spent? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Written by Janelle Ward

Energetic and skilled editor and writer with expert knowledge of retirement, retirement income, superannuation and retirement planning.

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