Seventeen popular medicines, covering complaints ranging from headaches to constipation, will from next year no longer be available under script.
In a decision published yesterday, and foreshadowed in the government’s recent pharmacy agreement, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has listed common over-the-counter medicines that from January 1 will not attract the fees and charges associated with other drugs dispensed by pharmacists.
The drugs to be delisted — which last year were on 8.76 million scripts at a cost of $87.3 million to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme — include paracetamol, aspirin, hydrocortisone and glycerol.
While the drugs currently qualify for a co-payment, which is more generous for concessional patients, complex funding rules mean the cost to the patient and government is much higher than if they had been purchased off script or in a supermarket.
Health Minister Sussan Ley last night said the government would accept the PBAC recommendations, correcting “an anomaly” and allowing the government to redirect funding. While the medicines comprise only 15 per cent of the over-the-counter medicines subsidised under the PBS, they make up 87 per cent of the cost of such medicines.
“There’s no doubting that many of these over-the-counter drugs, such as paracetamol and aspirin, can be a simple and easy treatment for various conditions,” Ms Ley said.
“This is an anomaly in the system that for years has seen patients and taxpayers unnecessarily paying higher prices to fill prescriptions for medicines that can often be bought at cheaper prices straight off the shelf in chemists or supermarkets.”
Ms Ley said concession card holders might pay $6.10 for a $2 pack of paracetamol if it was on their script, with flow-on costs to the PBS and government.
She said the measure was likely to save the government $500m over five years. While some patients would take longer to reach the drug safety net, the minister said competition would help keep costs low, while the PBAC had recommended no change to more expensive over-the-counter medicines for conditions such as asthma and allergies.
“Every dollar we spend subsidising inefficiencies in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is a dollar we could be investing in listing new, potentially lifesaving medicines instead,” Ms Ley said. “This is another example of sensible public policy we are delivering that balances the needs of patients, taxpayers and future investment in new medicines.”
The government also announced a PBS listing for Iclusig, a drug for rare chronic myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia, that would cost $20m over five years. The drug has cost patients up to $66,500 a year but with subsidies will cost concessional patients $6.10, and general patients $37.70, every time it is dispensed.
The pharmacy agreement passed the Senate earlier this year and includes the option for pharmacists to discount the patient co-payment by $1 a script.
Original article here