Let’s Talk: Are we being charged more for medications because we’re older?

Panadol Osteo, a common over-the-counter medication for sufferers of osteoarthritis, is about to soar in price tomorrow. Federal Health Minister
Let's Talk
via My Osteo

Panadol Osteo, a common over-the-counter medication for sufferers of osteoarthritis, is about to soar in price tomorrow. Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley has slammed the manufacturer for the increase of 50 per cent, and is calling on the ACCC to investigate.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports earlier this month, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline told its wholesalers it would lift its prices for Panadol Osteo by 50 per cent on January 1. If pharmacies pass on the full price rise, consumers will have to pay $7.50 a box – up from $5.

According to GlaxoSmithKline, the price rise is due to changes to the PBS, which will see the government stop subsidising medications that can be purchased cheaply over-the-counter in the New Year.

“In moving to an over-the-counter business model, GlaxoSmithKline is no longer able to sustain its current pricing of Panadol Osteo,” the letter to its wholesalers said.

Sussan Ley said thiw wasn’t true and the changes to the PBS imposed no extra administrative or regulator costs.

“[The PBS reform] aims to address inconsistencies that see consumers without a prescription purchasing a common over-the-counter medicine such as Panadol Osteo or an equivalent brand for under $5 off-the-shelf or online from many pharmacies, while a concessional patient buying it through a prescription pays $7.52,” she said.

“Therefore, attempts by the makers of Panadol Osteo to link their proposed 50 per cent price increase to Government regulatory changes without any detail to support their claims can only be interpreted as an attempt to mislead consumers and pharmacists.”

Ms Ley is now urging consumers to shop around.

Joe Demarte, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, said people taking over-the-counter medicines on prescription for osteoarthritis, headaches and heartburn or have suffered a stroke, should urgently consult their pharmacist.

“It’s vital for these patients to contact their pharmacist or prescriber to ensure they’re aware of all medication options for managing their condition,” he said.

“Pharmacists know from previous experience that changes to PBS rules can cause confusion for patients and carers, especially during the Christmas holiday period.”

Panadol Osteo isn’t the only type of over-the-counter medication to be scrapped from the PBS next year – there are 16 others, including common drugs for heartburn and skin allergies.

So we ask the question today: Are we paying more for medications because we’re older? It oftens eems like the people who need these medications the most are the ones who can’t afford it.

What do you think?

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