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Prescription medicine reforms benefit millions of Australians

As of September 1, Australians with chronic health conditions can access 60 days’ worth of medicine, which one expert says will give people independence and aid them through the cost-of-living crisis.

The 60-day dispensing reform has been touted as a huge win for consumers, and it means people requiring some medications will be able to access two months’ worth in a single visit to the pharmacy.

By only going to the pharmacy every two months to fill a script, many people are saving on the dispensing fee, and it’s estimated Medicare card holders will save about $180 per year, per medicine.

It will also free up time for GPs, who will cut down needing to write repeat scripts for some patients, plus if a patient lives a fair distance from their doctor or pharmacy, they won’t have to commute every month – which will be of particular benefit to those in regional communities.

“Being able to buy two months’ worth of medicine for the price of a single 30-day prescription will make a real difference for many Australians, to both their hip pocket and their health,” Consumers Health Forum CEO Dr Elizabeth Deveny said.

People with chronic illnesses will reap the benefits

Five years ago, 45-year-old Sam was diagnosed with MS, which her neurologist jokes is “too old” to be diagnosed.

Living with MS and being immunocompromised means it is critical for Sam to have access to the medications she needs.

One of the prescription medicines she uses on a daily basis is on the list of medicines that can be prescribed in 60-day blocks.

Sam believes the reform will not only be beneficial to her, but to many others living with chronic health conditions.

She explains she is fortunate enough to live close to a pharmacy, but that isn’t the case for everyone living with a chronic health condition.

“Being able to leave the house less often to go and get essential items for your health care is so important,” Sam told The New Daily.

“Not only will it save people having to leave the house, thereby saving their energy levels, it also saves fuel.”

Cutting down the cost is particularly important to Sam, who has worked as an academic and as a mental health clinician, but is currently looking for work as she had to shut down her business earlier this year.

She had to shut her doors due to the cost-of-living crisis, she said.

“We’re back to being a one-income family, hubby and I, and hopefully – fingers crossed – I’ll be able to find a job using my transferable skills,” she said.

She also believes this change will lead to better conversations between patients and GPs.

AMA president Professor Steve Robson also believes the change will mean fewer Australians will be likely to skip getting their prescriptions filled.

“By making medications more affordable, patients will be more likely to get their prescriptions filled and take these medications as required,” he said.

“Better medication compliance keeps people well and lightens the load on our health system, particularly our hospitals.”

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The prescription reforms were endorsed by several medical associations in Australia.

Who will benefit from the PBS?

Not all medications fall under the new rules and there are certain qualifications people need to meet to be able to access 60 days’ worth of medication.

As of September 1, there are nearly 100 common medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) that have the option of a 60-day prescription.

As per the federal Health Department, to access a 60-prescription, a patient must be:

  • Living with an ongoing health condition  
  • Assessed by their prescriber to be stable on their current medicine/medicines
  • Have discussed with their prescriber and obtained a new prescription for a 60-day quantity of medicine per dispensing.

Sam’s primary treatment to manage MS is transfusions every six months and on top of that, she takes medications to ensure her independence and mobility.

“If I have anything that goes wrong with me – because I’m immune compromised as well – then I may not be able to get to the GP or get a prescription,” she said.

“So if there’s prescription medication, it will help me to have that on hand – something that they can give me that longer script for, so that it can be available if I have a relapse, which is a reasonably common thing.”

Over the next year, more prescription medications will be added to the scheme, resulting in more than 300 medicines eligible for 60-day scripts when the three phases are complete.

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