Was it the wrong decision for the Government take Panadol off the PBS?

The health minister made a mistake, and it’s time the government owned up to this fact, says the Pharmacy Guild

The health minister made a mistake, and it’s time the government owned up to this fact, says the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

In Sussan Ley’s sweeping reforms to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, an “elementary error” was made and one vital medication was thrown out with the bathwater, according to the PGA.

In a statement made this week, the guild says, “It is time the Government acknowledged that Panadol Osteo has been de-listed from the PBS by mistake.

“Last April, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee set very clear criteria for de-listing PBS medicines on the basis they were available outside the PBS at a price no higher than the then PBS Concessional co-payment of $6.10.

“Unfortunately, an elementary error has been made in relation to the non-PBS price of Panadol Osteo.”

The PGA explains that the government considered the price per pack of this medication, which, at that time, was less that $6.10.

What the review failed to consider is the fact that the normal monthly prescribed PBS quantity of Panadol Osteo is not one but two packs.

“It is two packs of Panadol Osteo that osteoarthritis patients have had dispensed to them every month in their PBS prescription, until it was de-listed on 1 January,” says the Guild. “The non-PBS price of two packs of Panadol Osteo was higher than the $6.10 threshold that the PBAC set for de-listing.”

Eight per cent of Australians have osteoarthritis, and two-thirds of these patients are women.

The result of this flawed decision is that the vast majority of Australia’s 1.9 million osteoarthritis sufferers are now having to pay significantly more for their essential pain medication. For many pensioners who normally reach the PBS safety net, their annual out-of-pocket costs for Panadol Osteo may triple.

Further exacerbating the situation is the sudden 50 per cent price hike by Panadol Osteo manufacturer GSK, for which Ms Ley has called an ACCC investigation.

Medical Observer reports that the minister is advising consumers to “shop around for an alternative product” however brand name alternatives aren’t always available and pharmacists report that supply of the generic version, Osteomol, is sporadic.

“The Government’s declared purpose of the de-listing was to make medicines more affordable for patients. Demonstrably, this is not the case with Panadol Osteo,” says the Pharmacy Guild.

“An elementary error has been made and it is now time to rectify it. As Malcolm Turnbull made clear when he became Prime Minister, when his government gets a policy wrong, they will review it. This is a classic example of where the Turnbull doctrine must be applied.

“Pharmacists and their patients around Australia will continue to campaign until this mistake is fixed.”

Has your medication been taken off the PBS? How has this affected you?