Date: 14 September 2022
The introduction into Federal Parliament of legislation to cut the maximum general co-payment on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines has been welcomed by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
Announcing that the legislation would be introduced, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese thanked the Guild for advocating strongly to have the copayment reduced.
“I want to thank the Guild for its strong advocacy over a number of years. We met with the Pharmacy Guild a number of times to talk through these issues to come to the position that we have arrived at.
“What I'm here today to do is to say that this Labor Government is putting in place this measure which will make an enormous difference to millions of Australians.
“One of the things that really struck me when talking to pharmacists is you hear stories about people going into pharmacies with multiple scripts and asking for advice about what can be delayed or what medicine that they need then in fact to take.
“People have to rely upon their relationship with their pharmacists and their relationship with the with ensuring they get the drugs that they need.”
Health Minister Mark Butler also acknowledged the Guild, saying: “I really want to thank the Pharmacy Guild for their strong advocacy of this measure, which is a measure squarely in the interests of Australian patients.”
The legislation, when passed, will cut the maximum PBS co-payment from $42.50 to $30 per prescription.
National President of the Guild Professor Trent Twomey said this was the single most significant change to the cost of, and access to, medicines since the PBS was introduced 75 years ago.
“As primary healthcare workers, community pharmacists have increasingly been hearing patients say they simply cannot afford their medicines, often faced with deciding who in the family will go without in order to put food on the table or pay their bills,” Professor Twomey said.
“The Guild and community pharmacies have advocated strongly on behalf of patients for a reduction of the cost of medicines and today we thank the Federal Government for taking action.
“The reduction in the co-payment is a 30 per cent saving on the cost of each prescription. It means an individual will save $150 a year for one monthly script, or $300-$450 a year for two to three scripts a month. This is an annual saving of almost $200 million which will be put back into the pockets of Australians.”
Professor Twomey said making medicines more affordable would help reduce medication non-adherence, either through taking less of the medicine than prescribed, or not having the prescription filled at all.
“Making medicines cheaper will help reduce medicine non-adherence which directly contributes to higher healthcare costs, including preventable hospital admissions and readmission,” he said.
“In addition to increasing the universality of the access to medicines, this is a big step in addressing cost of living pressures and I congratulate the Government on acting so quickly to fulfil this election promise.”
The Guild partnered with a coalition of health bodies including the Australian Patients Association, Chronic Pain Australia and Musculoskeletal Australia to advocate on behalf of their patients.
Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Patients Association Stephen Mason said that the success of the campaign will benefit thousands of needy patients. These are patients who could not afford their prescription medications but will now benefit when the cuts commence on 1 January 2023.
Chief Executive Officer of Musculoskeletal Australia Rob Anderson said MSK is hearing from people contacting its National Helpline that, with regular housing interest rate increases and the increasing cost of living pressures, they are struggling to afford the medicines they so desperately need to manage their conditions. The reduction in the patient co-payment must be implemented as a priority and MSK applauds the Government for steps taken today.
President of Chronic Pain Australia, Fiona Hodson said the reduction in the co-payment will be welcome news to the one in five Australians living with chronic pain. Medicine affordability is a key issue for these patients as they manage their complex and chronic conditions.
Contact: The Guild