PBS changes set to take effect today

HERE TO HELP: Pharmacist manager Les Black is happy to help customers make the best decision for their family.
HERE TO HELP: Pharmacist manager Les Black is happy to help customers make the best decision for their family. Samantha Oneil

CHANGES to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) are set to take effect from today, with about 17 items being removed from the schedule.

Under the PBS, the government subsidises the cost of medication for most medical conditions.

Pharmacist manager Les Black said the items removed were some of the lesser expensive items on the schedule.

"The theory is that the less expensive items are removed in order for higher-cost items, like cancer treatments, to be subsidised," he said.

Mr Black said paracetamol was the fourth most prescribed drug on the PBS.

"It is about an $80 million per year saving, which will be shifted to other newer drugs," he said.

One of the newest drugs added to the PBS is Axitinib, which is a "last resort" treatment for kidney cancer. "Axitinib costs about $5000 per month," Mr Black said.

The changes are expected to hit the pocket of older customers the most, with many retirees and nursing home residents relying on the removed medications for daily pain management.

Mr Black said new rules would now allow the pharmacy to offer a $1 discount on PBS prescriptions to help offset the impact.

The director of local pharmacies Warwick Discount Drug Store and John Duggan Amcal Chemist, Chris Owen, said both pharmacies were offering the discount to concession cardholders.

"We'll be giving the full discount to try and alleviate the stress of PBS changes, to eligible concession patients," Mr Owen said.

"We've been here for many years and we want to give back to our supportive community."

The only drawback to the discount is customers will take longer to reach their Safety Net threshold.

Under the current Safety Net rules, when a customer reaches 60 concessional prescriptions at $6.20 each for the year, their prescriptions are free of charge for the rest of that year.

Mr Black said while customers might be saving money in the short term with the discount, access to free medicine could be pushed to later in the year or they may not qualify at all. "All our customers should discuss their situation with myself or the pharmacist on duty to work out what will be best for them," he said.

Removal of drugs from the PBS

 antacids (eg Gaviscon, Mylanta and Gastrogel)

 paracetamol (eg Panamax, Panadol Osteo)

 iron tablets (eg Ferro-Gradumet)

 aspirin - pain and blood-thinning products

 B12 injections

 hydrocortisone creams and ointments

 folic acid tablets (eg Megafol)

Topics:  medication medicine pbs pharmaceutical benefits scheme

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