More affordable medicines for all Australians

Forefront

Date: 6 February 2019

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia wants to see more affordable medicines for all Australians, and the restoration of the universality of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The Guild is calling for an across-the-board $1 reduction in the PBS patient co-payment for all consumers. High out-of-pocket costs have an impact on the ability of some patients to be able to afford medicines that are vital to their health, so an across-the-board reduction in the co-payments would have positive health benefits.

One of the values that underpins the PBS is that subsidised medicines should be equally accessible for all Australians.

Unfortunately, a policy introduced in 2015 has breached the universality of the PBS by allowing an optional $1 discount of the PBS co-payment.  Only 28 per cent of prescriptions are being discounted, creating a situation where a consumer in a metropolitan area is likely to pay less than a consumer in rural or regional Australia for the same subsidised medicine.

The failure of the $1 discount policy in terms of universality and patient health outcomes was highlighted by the Government’s Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Review.  The Review’s Final Report concluded:

“The $1 discount has not led to equitable outcomes for consumers …The Australian Government should abolish the $1 discount on the PBS patient co-payment”.

“The Panel considers that, when pharmacies compete for a consumer’s business, it should be on the quality of the service that is provided to the consumer as opposed to PBS medicine prices,” The Review found.

The Review’s Final Report effectively suggested that using the $1 discount is not the right tool to promote lower medicine costs for patients, and stated:

“…if the government considers that lower co-payments are desirable, they should lower them for all consumers…”

The National President of the Guild George Tambassis said: “The optional $1 discount is flawed health policy which we have always opposed because it breaches the universality of the PBS, and provides no net benefit to the sickest and neediest patients – all it does is delay them reaching the safety net.

“Abolishing the optional $1 discount, while at the same time cutting co-payments by $1 will mean that all Australians will have affordable, equitable and universal access to the PBS, regardless of where they live or which pharmacy they choose and whether they are concessional or general patients.  

“Rural and remote patients will have equally affordable access to the PBS as patients in capital cities, and community pharmacists everywhere will be able to focus entirely on providing the best medicine related care and advice, rather than having conversations with patients about whether they can get a dollar off or not.”

The full submission can be accessed here.

Contact: The Pharmacy Guild of Australia
Phone: 02 6270 1888

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Page last updated 06 February 2019