Cheaper medications as Albanese government eyes overhaul of PBS list

Australians with chronic conditions can now get two months' of medicine for the price of one.

Australians with chronic conditions can now get two months' of medicine for the price of one. Photo: AAP

The Albanese government will slash the cost of popular medications as it begins what it says is the biggest cut to drug costs in the 75 years of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

In a twin-pronged announcement on Monday, Health Minister Mark Butler said more than 2000 medications on the PBS – for stomach ulcers, migraines and other conditions – would become cheaper from October 1.

He said the move would save patients $130 million a year in out-of-pocket costs.

It came as the government announced it intended to introduce legislation to the House of Representatives this week to cut the maximum price of PBS medicines for general patients by 29 per cent, to a cap of $30.

Reducing the cap on prescriptions from $42.50 was a key election pledge for Labor.

“This is not just a great thing for the hip pockets for millions of Australian patients, it’s also good for their health,” Mr Butler said.

“The Bureau of Statistics has told us that as many as 900,000 Australians every single year are forced to go without medicines their doctor has prescribed for their health, [medicines] their doctor has said is important for the maintenance of good health.

“And pharmacists after pharmacist has told me of stories of their customers coming into their pharmacy and putting a number of scripts on their counter, asking for advice about which ones they can go without because they can’t afford to fill [all of them].”

Mr Butler said new or amended listings to the PBS announced on Monday would give Australians access to “wonderful life-saving and life-changing medicines”.

“Our government knows just how tough households are doing it with the cost of living right now,” he said.

“That’s why it’s just so important that our government is getting on with the job of delivering on our promise to cut the cost of medicines for Australian patients.”

From October 1, up to half a million patients with stomach ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease will pay lower prices for their scripts, while patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder could save up to $6.22 per script.

More than 20,000 migraine sufferers and people with epilepsy can expect to pay $34.90 per script for Topiramate 200-milligram tablets, a saving of up to $6.63.

About 15,000 patients suffering from severe psoriatic arthritis and prescribed Leflunomide 20-milligram tablets can expect to pay $37.19 per script, a saving of up to $5.31 per script.

Women using Anastrozole to inhibit breast cancer progression will save up to $2.36 per script. About 13,000 patients annually can expect to pay $22.07 per script for a one-milligram tablet.

Mr Butler also announced expanded PBS listings for Pembrolizumab, also known as Keytruda, and Bavencio.

Keytruda is an immunotherapy used to fight certain cancers, while Bavencio treats cancer that affects the bladder or urinary tract.

In other moves, Inqovi and Increlex will be listed for the first time.

Inqovi treats myelodysplastic syndromes and chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia.

Increlex will treat children with primary insulin-like growth factor 1 deficiency.

Mr Butler urged opposition parties to back the government’s legislation.

“Over the course of this week, the House of Representatives will be debating our legislation to introduce the biggest cut to the cost of medicines for Australian households in the 75-year history of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme,” he said.

“It will give a real shot in the arm for the health of those hundreds of thousands of Australian patients choosing to go without medicines their doctor has said is important for their health.”

The office of opposition health spokeswoman Anne Ruston did not respond to a request for comment.

The Greens told The New Daily that they would support the legislation.

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