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Changing the Script: Making Medicines Cheaper

Today, I’m calling on the Government to make medications cheaper for Australians with chronic diseases.

In 2018, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) suggested that Australian GPs could safely prescribe 60 days’ supply and 12-month scripts for 143 medicines commonly used to treat chronic conditions. The suggestion was supported by several peak bodies but never actioned by the Morrison government.

This change would help take the pressure off our GPs – saving unnecessary routine visits just to get repeat scripts- and would reduce the cost of medications for Australians living with chronic disease. We know that the cost of medications is a key reason for many Australians delaying or failing to fill prescriptions. Time spent away from work for GP visits and trips to the pharmacist impacts productivity. Allowing up to a years’ supply of medications on a single script would save many patients at least one visit to the doctor per year, and the 2-month supply option would save patients up to $180 a year per medication.

The change would be particularly valuable for the pensioners and concession card holders who were not helped by the Government’s recent reduction in PBS co-payments.

This reform presents an immediate savings opportunity for the May Budget. When I asked the Health Minister to consider this proposal in Question Time recently, Minister Butler responded that the Government was ...‘looking at all of the options available to Government to make access to health care better and easier for patients, and to make the cost of health care, including the cost of medicines, even cheaper.”

I’m calling on the Government, and the Health Minister, again. It is beyond time to adopt the recommendations of the PBAC, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Australian Medical Association, and the Consumer Health Forum to take this step: to cut the red tape and improve our access to medicines now.
We need to make Medicare more efficient and cost-effective, and this is a simple, important, and obvious way to proceed.

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