Why is the medication so many of us use on the chopping block? 144



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We knew cuts were coming and now the health minister has revealed that 17 over-the-counter drugs that most of us use will no longer be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Sussan Ley insists the withdrawal of these drugs will save money, but is she thinking of the people who actually use them or her budget’s bottom line?

Among the drugs to be removed from the PBS are paracetamol, aspirin and drugs for heartburn and skin allergies.

In a statement, Ms Ley 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.

“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.

“These inconsistencies in the system have seen patients and taxpayers unnecessarily paying higher prices to fill prescriptions for medicines that can often be purchased cheaper straight off the shelf.

“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.”

Ms Ley said while these 17 medicines make up only 15 per cent of over-the-counter medicines subsidised under the PBS, between them they generate 8.7 million scripts and cost the government $87 million – nearly 90 per cent of the annual spend on OTC medicines.

As a result of the cuts, Ms Ley says the money can then be used to invest in listing new drugs that could treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

The PBS is a complex system and “inefficiencies” are the cause of the situation in which we end up paying $6.10 for a packet of Panadol when paracetamol can be bought from supermarkets for as little as $2.

To get the Panadol and other over-the-counter drugs free under the PBS, you need to reach the safety net.

“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,” says Ms Ley.


What do you think of the decision to remove these drugs from the PBS? How will it affect you? 

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  1. Yes. Yolu can get paracetamol for $2 a packet but that is for a pack of 24 tablets. On a script you can get them for $6:10 for a packet of 120 tablets. To get the same amount from the supermarket will cost $10. Once again they hit out at the low income and pensioners.

    15 REPLY
    • All sound like great ideas. But as I have pointed out before on this site, not everyone lives where there are discount chemists or chemists warehouses. My nearest Chemist Warehouse is 400klm away. My nearest discount chemist is 50klm away. The cost of driving to these far outweighs the savings. The supermarkets do not stock bulk paracetamol.

    • Liberal voters Ruth always have an easy way that is not so easy for the rest of us..well said Ruth.

    • I get Osteo Panadol too Ruth and it is a higher dosage as you know than normal Pandadol and David is right it is cheaper on script

    • Panadol osteo is a slower release format. Dosage is 6 tablets (3×2) of 665mg per day which is almost the same dose as the usual dosage of normal 500mg paracetamol which you can take 4x a day. Anyway, didn’t a recent study show that paracetamol is really only useful for headaches and does litlle for muscular and joint pain such as arthritis. I know it doesn’t help me much.

    • Christine Murphy what helps you may be different to what helps others, if people are getting relief from Osteo Pandaol..who are you to tell them they are not

  2. I can get 100 paracetamol tablets at Chemist Warehouse for less thsn $2. Would never think of getting a script for them.

    2 REPLY
    • . But as I have pointed out before on this site, not everyone lives where there are discount chemists or chemists warehouses. My nearest Chemist Warehouse is 400klm away. My nearest discount chemist is 50klm away. The cost of driving to these far outweighs the savings. The supermarkets do not stock bulk paracetamol.

  3. Both my husband and I take aspirin every day. (Doctor’s orders). It is cheaper to buy over the counter than on prescription, even with a concession card. It looks like this will be just one more added expense for the pensioner The government is showing less and less consideration for those of us who have retired after decades of hard work, paying taxes and helping build this country

    5 REPLY
    • If you are already buying over the counter nothing will change. What are you blaming the government for exactly?

    • The article states that these items will no longer be available over the counter, but only on prescription. Therefore, we will have to pay more

    • Maureen it’s the other way round. Doctors will now not write prescriptions for these things as it is in fact cheaper to buy them over the counter!

    • I don’t understand why some people cannot understand. It is costing the government more than is necessary so they have moved to change the situation.

    • I’m not a pensioner yet, but this system the Government is introducing is to save them money – not the tax payers or pensioners. We will have to get a prescription for everything. The medication will cost more & the cost of seeing a GP is going up all the time. I do agree that the pensioners get a poor deal & are forced to live on very little.

  4. Lets face it, it’s to line the liberals pockets while they are in & for no other reason?

  5. Panadol osteo. You get 2 boxes for $6.10 for health card holders. Over the counter you only can buy 1 box for more than that. Health minister you boobooed

  6. Yet another government ploy to get more of our hard earned dollars.
    Exempt pensioners and low income earners I say.

    2 REPLY
    • If we are buying these over the counter and not paying more by using our PBS script, how are we paying more ($6.40 for 100 Paracetomol with a prescription, $1.80 for 100 over the counter)

  7. What do you expect libs always pick easy targets the most needy because we dont make a fuss and have no money for lawyers

  8. Even if that was true, I wouldn’t believe anything Susan Ley says. She has to be scripted before going in front of the cameras. How do they find all the ditzes???

    2 REPLY
    • It is true. $6.40 to get a script for Panadol, $1.80 to get the paracetomol over the counter.

    • I get panadol osteo for RA. 2x boxes of 96 for $6.10. and I need them for pain. They are prescribed for pain management along with more heavier drugs. As an aged pensioner I should have that benefit still. What would Susna Ley know? Still wet behind the ears.

  9. We reach the safety net by May/June every year because of my husband’s chronic condition. I am also taking Panadol Osteo on prescription. The government will just keep whittling all of our benefits away.

  10. I’ve always bought my own paracetamol. Never thought of getting a script. Heartburn tablets are expensive as are medicines for skin allergies. Pensioners can’t afford to pay full price for these things.

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