Rising costs of medicines on PBS

Source: Shutterstock.

Photo: Source: Shutterstock.

Patients have been urged this week to shop around for their brand of medicine following price increases imposed by pharmaceutical companies on 85 brands of medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, stated the brands of medicines, most of which were reduced in price in April following the federal government’s reforms to the PBS, have had their cost to consumers increase by up to $7.04 due to the pharmaceutical companies increasing a brand surcharge from last Wednesday.

“There is always another brand of the same medicine on the PBS which does not have a surcharge imposed on it, so patients can avoid being slugged by these increases, which are paid to the pharmaceutical company, by shopping around,” Ms Plibersek said.

The cost of the medicine without the brand premium will reportedly be no more than the PBS co-payment of $5.80 for concessional patients and up to $35.40 for general patients.

“The alternative brand provides the exactly same health benefit as the more expensive brand for which the pharmaceutical company has decided to charge the consumer more.

“Patients should always ask their pharmacist when their script is being dispensed whether there is a less costly brand of their medicine available. Pharmacists are paid an incentive by the Government to help the consumer choose a less expensive brand,” Ms Plibersek explained.

A list of the brands of medicines on the PBS that have increased their cost to consumers, accompanied with a list of less expensive brands of the same medicines have been posted on the internet at www.pbs.gov.au.

“Consumers can see from the list how much money they will save by not choosing a brand of their medicine with a brand premium each time they have their script dispensed.

“Consumers can be confident that different brands are just as effective, and that cheaper medicines work just as well. They should think twice about paying extra for the box and the brand name.”

Two brands of cyclosporin (used as an anti-inflammatory and for skin diseases) have had their brand premium removed last Wednesday (1 August 2012).

Additionally, some medicines such as escitalopram (used for depression), amisulpride (used for mental illness) and meloxicam (used for arthritis) will be less expensive for non-concessional consumers by as much as $5.39, as part of the continued reforms to the PBS.

Details of all medicines available on the PBS, including premium free brand medicines, are available on the PBS website.