New prescription policy means cheaper medicines

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

Millions of Australians living with ongoing health conditions can get cheaper medicines under the first stage of the federal government’s 60-day dispensing policy.

From Friday, consumers with chronic conditions will be able to get two months’ worth of medicine for the price of one.

People with a heart condition, Crohn’s disease, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and many other conditions will get important cost of living relief, Health Minister Mark Butler said in a statement to mark the change.

“Everyone with a Medicare card taking one of these medicines will save up to $180 per year, per medicine. Concession card holders will save $43 per medicine,” he said.

Mr Butler said every Australian would benefit from the freeing up of millions of GP visits so doctors had more time to diagnose and treat conditions, instead of simply issuing routine, repeat scripts.

“Regional Australians will no longer have to travel each month into the pharmacy to pick up the same prescription they’ve been on for decades,” he said.

Mr Butler said 60-day prescriptions will provide welcome relief to consumers but it would also be good for the health of Australians.

“Overseas evidence tells us that medicine compliance increases by 20 per cent with longer prescriptions,” he said.

“That is why every major patient group and doctors’ group, including the Consumers Health Forum, the Australian Medical Association, the College of General Practitioners, and the Rural Doctors Association, have advocated strongly for 60-day prescriptions.”

But pharmacists have not supported the change, saying it will cause the closure of pharmacies across Australia.

Mr Butler said that was a scare campaign from the “highly profitable” pharmacy lobby.

“We are dedicated and committed to a vibrant future for community pharmacy,” he told ABC TV on Friday.

“Which is why every single dollar we save is being ploughed back into the community pharmacy sector, reinvested into programs that allow them to provide more services to their customers.”

Mr Butler said he didn’t understand why the Liberal Party opposed the change and planned to try to overturn a measure that would benefit so many people.

“I encourage (Opposition Leader) Peter Dutton to stop trying to block this measure and get behind it,”- he said.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners President Dr Nicole Higgins said the change would bring immediate benefits for some the most vulnerable people in the community and would mean fewer trips to pick up medicines and repeat scripts.

Consumers health Forum CEO Elizabeth Deveny said the measure was a “significant win” for consumers to make health care more affordable, accessible and equitable.

“Amid growing cost of living pressures, many consumers have been finding it increasingly difficult to stay well, having to choose between the costs of vital medications and other essentials,” she said in a statement.

Topics: Medicine
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