Medicine costs may increase
THE price of cheap over-the-counter medicines could rise under a Federal Government plan to remove subsidies from some drugs to save about $500 million from January.
Last month Health Minister Sussan Ley announced wide-ranging reforms to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the way pharmacies were governed.
Plans include a new $18.9 billion sixth community pharmacy agreement, $6.6 billion of “savings”, $2.8 billion in new investment for chemists and potentially $2.5 billion in new drugs listed on the PBS.
While the Federal Government said consumers were the big winners under the deal, consumer advocacy groups argued it was a mixed bag.
“The key changes for regional consumers arising from the new Community Pharmacy Agreement are likely to be a general rise overall in medicines costs over the next five years, although some commonly-used drugs such as statins for cholesterol are likely to decline in price,” Consumers Health Forum CEO Leanne Wells said.
“The good news for regional pharmacy consumers is that there should be an increasing availability of community pharmacy programs and patient services, such as home medicine reviews, under plans to double funding to $1.26 billion over five years for primary care patient services.”
Ms Wells said the separate change in the new pharmacy agreement, which allowed pharmacies to offer an optional discount by up to $1, was unlikely to flow through to regional areas where there were sole pharmacies and no discount pharmacy outlets.
The optional discount would reduce the concessional patient contribution to $5.10 a script and the general patient contribution to $36.70 a script.