In the 2021-22 Federal Budget, the government has allocated $1.1 billion to fund price reductions, which will be implemented through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Starting on May 1, 2023, more than 300 prescription medications will be available at half price for patients with chronic conditions, including heart disease, cholesterol, Crohn’s disease and hypertension. The initiative is expected to deliver budget savings by reducing patients’ visits to GPs to obtain the necessary medicines.
Australian Medical Association President Professor Steve Robson said the announcement effectively halves the costs of these medicines for patients and means more affordable medicines are now a reality for these patients.
The policy has been widely welcomed by healthcare professionals and patient groups, who have long advocated for greater access to affordable prescription medications.
“This is terrific news for consumers taking these medications, as they will now be able to visit the chemist once every two months instead of every month, but still pay a single co-payment – instead of visiting and paying each and every month.”
“We know patients are struggling to afford essential medicines as cost-of-living increases continue to bite the household budget and research tells us some patients are skipping medicines because of this — that just shouldn’t be happening.
“It will deliver a significant saving to patients of up to $180 a year per selected medicine, potentially also save the taxpayer, and upholds the independence of the PBAC process. The AMA commends the government on this smart, triple win policy,” Professor Robson said.
Australian Health Minister Mark Butler has emphasised the importance of the new policy, stating that it will address the issue of Australians delaying or going without necessary medication due to the cost. He highlighted that nearly a million Australians are forced to delay or go without a medicine recommended by their doctor every year.
“Australian pharmacies already do much more than just dispense medicine and the Government is supporting our trusted pharmacists to play an even bigger role in the healthcare of Australians,” Butler added.
Patients will also be able to buy a two-month supply of subsidised medicines on a single prescription, instead of two separate ones, which could save up to $180 a year for those who receive medications prescribed for 60 days rather than 30 days.
However, doctors still have the option to write a prescription for a one-month supply for patients, rather than two, to ensure their safety and best interest.
The new measure’s fiscal impact will be further explained in the upcoming budget, to be handed down by Treasurer Jim Chalmers on May 9. The government’s newest policy comes months after it was announced that more seniors were made eligible for Commonwealth Seniors Health Card to help ease the financial burden associated with the rising cost of living. The changes went into effect on Friday, November 4, 2022, with the income threshold for access to the card increased.