Government cuts PBS subsidy on the commonest drugs 167



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The Government plans to scrape back more money to spend on medicines by removing a range of common medications from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the move is set to ensure that fewer people can use scripts on more expensive versions of basic drugs to pass through the Medicare Safety Net threshold.

17 different over the counter drugs like Paracetamol and Aspirin, Hydrocortisone and Glycerol will not be available under co-payment subsidy via prescription from the beginning of next year, and instead, patients will have to buy “over the counter” without it adding up as an off-settable medical expense.  The government is claiming that it could save them up to $100 million knowing that the amount put through scripts last year amounted to $87.3 million on these items.

The drugs have been costing the government more to subsidise than they would have cost the patients to buy them from supermarkets thanks to complex deals struck by the pharmaceutical companies.

Health Minister Sussan Ley praised the change in the ABC as progressive saying that for many it was better to buy the medicines off the shelf than via prescription.

“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,” said Ms Ley.

“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.

“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.”

But the downside does mean that pensioners and those reaching the safety net who might then have been able to claim these drug under their safety net if they hit the thresholds, receiving them free will no longer be able to do so.

“A curiosity of the system means that if you reach the safety net for medicines you can access these over-the-counter drugs free,” Ms Ley said.

“But overall while you get up to that safety net you pay as a concessional patient $6.10 on average for Panadol or aspirin when you could buy that medicine for $2 over the counter.

“This distortion costs Government and prevents us from listing new drugs which we might be able to do with those dollars.

“And most patients don’t reach the safety net so there’s an excessive spend on over-the-counter medicines which doesn’t need to happen.”

Are you happy to see the Government redirecting this money to other medicines on the PBS rather than funding something that is more expensive than it should be? 

Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. I am currently on both paracetamol and low dose asprin and they are cheaper for me to buy over the counter than by prescription.

    6 REPLY
    • My husband and i take between us 12 meds a day if they remove tablets we will probably have to go without some.

    • I’m actually on disability with no assets o think that qualifies me as “less fortunate”

    • Barbara Cleal Depends on tablets , Mainly suppositories, laxatives, everyday medication aspirin . Cough mixture .

    • I do live in Australia. Paracetamol can be bought for less than $3 and low dose asprin about the same. A concession prescription is $6.10

  2. That’s right here we go again hitting the pensioners know you gonna take our Life support away do you just want us to die that will make it easy for you

  3. I don’t think some of these things should ever have been on the PBS to start off with. It’s cheaper to get them without a script.

    2 REPLY
    • No, it isn’t cheaper. Those in chronic pain get a bulk pack for the $6.10 they pay for their script, and if they are over the safety net they don’t have to pay. Most people are not buying these meds for fun, but because they would be living in terrible pain without them.

    • Realise there are people who probably use them as needed but have quite a few family members and friends who’s relatives reach the safety net then stockpile these tablets. No one needs boxes and boxes of Panadol etc in their cupboards.

      1 REPLY
      • I know a lot of people stockpile these drugs as well. What a waste of money.

  4. If you are on Osteo Panadol it will cost you more without script, I have no idea about the other items because I don’t get them

    5 REPLY
    • I buy Astrix over the counter which is half strength aspirin at Chemist warehouse for $3 Libbi, but once again it is Pensioners who will suffer.

    • I don’t take asprin I am on enough pain killers as it is and I have low blood pressure Trish , I am on Tramil, Panadine forte, and Osteo Panadol for pain. and I am Celbrex plus a couple of others

    • Bill Pollock I recently bought a genric Osteo, when I stayed away overnight and they are not much cheaper than normal Osteo. hen it is coming out of my wallet don’t tell me it is that much cheaper when I know 100% it is not. I am not on this pain medication because I like taking it, I have no choice, it is either take them or not function, I have recently asked to be taken off oxycontin, because it was impairing my thoughts

  5. The government needs to realise pensioners do have brains and do realise they are better off buying some products over the counter such as paracetamol. I do this and have for a long time. It’s things like panadol osteo that need to drop in price as over the counter thy are currently quite expensive. There are people out there who take so much meds they hit the ceiling in six months and are going to be out of pocket unless they chose not to take some of their meds. This is outragous.

    6 REPLY
    • I have had a kidney transplant and am on 21 separate meds a week, including asprin and panadol osteo. Being a pensioner takes up most of my spending money paying for these so can’t say I am overly impressed with some of the government’s thinking. Isn’t it time the millionaire businesses were made to pay their fair share of taxes instead of always picking on the pensioners.

    • It is people like you who will be hit the hardest by this stupid move. I hope you don’t get to the point of choosing between food and med. I wish you all the best.

    • Maybe the idea is to make people live without chronic pain relief to the point of depression then suicide. That would certainly save the government money. (Yes I am being serious.)

    • I think you hit the nail on the head there Adrienne, they all hoping we will die and we all be worse off one way or another, if people are in pain, they will buy the medication and cut back on food and if they bring in a 15% GST, well they may as well open a mass grave and bury us all

    • Adrienne Linington thats what I was thinking would happen they ( the government) just wish all pensioners would just die problem solved in their eyes!!

  6. Panmax at $3.95 a hundred over the counter or at supermarket I think in a lot of cases they are bought ex-pharmacy just to get to the threshold.

  7. If that includes Panadol Osteo we currently get two boxes of 96 caplets for $6.10 , and to buy them at Chemist warehouse they are $5.99 for 1 box, so yes once again anyone with chronic pain is going to either be out of pocket or go without.
    This would have to be the MEANEST GOVERNMENT EVER the way they strike out at PENSIONERS all the time to save a BLOODY DOLLAR INSTEAD OF MAKING THE HUGE COMPANIES WHO GET AWAY WITH NOT PAYING TAX, pay their fair share.

    6 REPLY
    • My hubs needs the panadol osteo daily at the max dosage to function. So we will be out of pocket. That is not the only meds he takes. Not happy.

      1 REPLY
      • Same here Mary. But when you think of it the Govt is making a noose for their own neck as insead of taking panadol oesteo many like him will opt to have the knee and hip replacement sooner rather than later. And that will cost a hell of a lot more for the govt than subsidising.

  8. What about the pharacists advice that goes with the dispensing of the scripts and are the pack sizes the same for $2 from supermarkets. some

  9. Pensioners are not stupid, we get these items the doctors prescribes on script because it is cheaper that way

    4 REPLY
    • Not always David James. Paracetamol is cheaper over the counter but can be prescribed to pensioners. Panadol Osteo used for arthritis is not and unless the price drops many will be out of pocket or just not take it and suffer the pain. And not getting counted towards the threshold will further disadvantage pensioners.

    • I only get osteo panadol for myself and my wife get it too , that will be double a price hike for us

    • I only get osteo panadol for myself and my wife get it too , that will be double a price hike for us

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