In Australia, prescription medications are covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), but if you’re taking regular medication the costs can soar. In fact, consumer advocacy group Choice says that “medicine prices are one of the top cost-of-living concerns” in Australia.
Fortunately, there are some methods which can save you money on prescriptions. As Choice says, “anything you can do to reduce the cost of medication is going to take the pressure off your household budget”.
1. Buy generic brands
When your pharmacists asks if you’d like a generic brand, they’re not selling you inferior medication. Instead, generic medications contain the same ingredients but aren’t patented by major pharmaceutical manufacturers. As such, they’re normally much cheaper.
Generic brands must meet the same quality, safety and efficacy standards as branded medications. When a patent exists (normally for 25 years) the original manufacturer has sole rights to sell the medication. However after that period, other manufacturers can apply to the government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration to sell generic versions.
This saves you money!
2. Review your medication
Ask your GP to review the medication that you’re taking collectively. This can help eliminate any prescriptions you no longer need, or identify if two of your medications are doing the same job.
Reviewing your medication is not only beneficial for your purse, it’s beneficial for your health too. As Choice explains, “instead of taking two or more pills, (some) medicines are sometimes combined in a single tablet, which not only saves you money… it’s also a lot more convenient”.
3. Use the safety net
If you and your family buy lots of medication, safety nets can apply to cap your medical expenses each calendar year. For pensioners and concession holders, the cap is $366 and after that PBS-listed medications are free. For other Australians, the PBS safety net kicks in after $1453.
“If you do go through a lot of medication it’s a good idea to ask your pharmacist for a prescription record form so you can keep track of your spending and receive safety net benefits,” adds Choice.
4. Stay loyal
Visiting a regular GP and shopping with the same pharmacist can save you money. Whilst medications on the PBS cannot be discounted, it always helps to have medical professionals who understand your health history. They may be able to advise on appropriate dosages, and whether you’re eligible for entitlements such as the safety net.
Moreover, shopping at the same pharmacy can offer you discounts on cosmetics and toiletries, such as supplements, skincare and nutritional products.
5. Check your dosage
If your dosage for a particular medication is higher than average, you may be able to request an “authority prescription”. To do this, your GP needs to contact Medicare for approval and enter a special code on the prescription.
With an authority prescription, you will pay the same for medication as someone on a standard dose.