Twice the supply, half the worry: all you need to know about cheaper meds

Life never seems to get any cheaper, but this exciting change to the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) is something that could really make a difference to the budgets of millions of Australians.

As of 1 March 2024, almost 200 medicines are available for eligible patients to receive twice the medication on a single prescription.

This is part of a three-part rollout and will be a significant reduction to the cost of around 300 PBS medications by 1 September 2024.

This change is expected to create $1.6 billion worth of savings over the coming 4-year period, with patients taking only 60-day prescription medicines potentially halving their doctor and pharmacy trips to renew and fill their scripts. Individuals can potentially save up to $189.60 per medication per year for Medicare card holders without a concession card, and up to $46.20 per medication per year for concession card holders.

The amount of savings by filling scripts less frequently is affected by a range of factors such as:

  1. The cost of the medication.
  2. Any pharmacy discretionary discounts that already apply.
  3. Manufacturers’ surcharges such as brand premiums.
  4. Whether the cost is below the $31.60 PBS general co-payment amount.

Let us further unpack what this could mean for mature Australians with ongoing medication requirements by exploring who qualifies, what the benefits are, and which health conditions 60-day prescriptions might apply to.

Do you qualify for a 60-day prescription?

Patients taking PBS medications available for 60-day prescriptions may be eligible if:

  • They have a stable, ongoing health condition.
  • Their prescribing practitioner has assessed them as suitable.
  • They have been issued a new 60-day prescription.

There are over 900 medicines listed on the PBS to treat a wide range of acute and chronic health conditions experienced by Australians. The full list of medicines available for 60-day prescriptions is expected to include around 300 medications commonly used to treat stable ongoing health conditions by completion of the rollout.

Finding your medication on the list does not mean you are automatically eligible to switch from a 30-day to a 60-day prescription. Prescribers including medical practitioners and nurse practitioners will use their clinical discretion to determine if patients are suitable for a 60-day prescription.

So the best way to find out if you qualify is to see if your medication is listed here, then make an appointment to discuss it with your prescribing practitioner. More medicines will be added to the list on 1 September 2024.

What are the potential benefits of 60-day prescriptions?

The tangible benefits of filling scripts every 60-days instead of every 30-days are far-reaching and include increased affordability and convenience. For example:

  • You may halve the number of visits to your medical practitioner to renew your prescriptions, saving time and money.
  • Busy GPs may have more appointment times freed up for other patients, reducing the significant strain on our health care system.
  • You may halve the number of visits to the pharmacy to collect your medication, saving time and money again.
  • The maximum cost for a 60-day prescription is less than the maximum cost for two 30-day prescriptions on the PBS.
  • You don’t need to worry about remembering to refill a script every month.
  • Savings may mean patients won’t need the PBS safety net at all, while others may reach the safety net later in the year, saving you money throughout the year.

What type of health conditions are 60-day prescriptions available for?

Not all health conditions are eligible for 60-day prescriptions. Some conditions aren’t suitable for 60-day prescriptions because they need frequent monitoring, however the list of conditions that can benefit from this change is still comprehensive.

The list of ongoing health conditions that 60-day prescriptions are available for can be found here. Remember to check again on 1 September 2024 when the final list of medications will be made available.

Many health conditions experienced by mature adults are covered in the list, including but not limited to:

  • Heart failure
  • High cholesterol
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Gout
  • Incontinence
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Migraine
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Hypertension
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Androgen deficiency
  • Breast cancer
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Menopause
  • Prostate cancer
  • Prostate enlargement

So, with time and cost savings to be made, there is some relief in sight for older Australians on medication. You can read more about these changes to the PBS here, or speak with your doctor to see how 60-day prescriptions might benefit you.

This article is sponsored by the Australian Government, Canberra.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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