FEDERAL Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce has welcomed the Federal Government’s changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which he says will address inconsistencies in medicine prices from 1 January 2016.
Mr Joyce said the Government’s changes would assist concessional patients with a prescription for common medicines such as paracetamol and aspirin and who are currently paying higher prices than if they simply purchased them over-the-counter.
He said the Minister for Health, Sussan Ley confirmed the 17 types of common over-the-counter medicines for issues such as headaches, heartburn and constipation that will no longer be subsidised as a prescription drug.
The decision follows advice and consultation by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and is part of the Government’s landmark PBS reforms, which passed the Senate earlier this year.
Mr Joyce said the measure would particularly benefit concessional patients who were sometimes paying two-to-three times the retail price of common medicines when they bought them through a prescription rather than over-the-counter.
“For example, we currently have concession card holders right now paying $6.10 for a $2 pack of paracetamol if they buy it using a PBS-subsidised prescription, which also attracts a taxpayer subsidy on top,” Mr Joyce said.
He said while the 17 medicines made up only about 15 per cent of over-the-counter medicines subsidised under the PBS, between them they generated 8.7 million scripts costing $87 million in 2014-15 – nearly 90 per cent of the annual $100 million taxpayer spend on OTC medicines.
Minister Ley said the changes would also save taxpayers about half-a-billion dollars over the next five years, allowing greater investment in new medicines.