On Tuesday, Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the decision to remove drugs including paracetamol, aspirin and hydrocortisone from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from January, after a government advisory board recommended the changes earlier this year..
On Tuesday, Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the decision to remove drugs including paracetamol, aspirin and hydrocortisone from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from January, after a government advisory board recommended the changes earlier this year.. AAP Image - Alan Porritt

PBS cuts could mean pain ahead for chronically ill

A BUNDABERG pharmacist says the Federal Government's decision to remove subsidies for 17 common medicines could be disastrous for chronic illness sufferers.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the decision to remove drugs including paracetamol, aspirin and hydrocortisone from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from January, after a government advisory board recommended the changes earlier this year.

The government said last year the medicines cost the government $87 million for about 8.7 million scripts.

Ms Ley said the measure would particularly benefit concessional patients who were sometimes paying almost three times the retail price of common medicines when they bought them through a prescription rather than over-the-counter.

"For example, we currently have concession card holders right now paying $6.10 for a $2 pack of paracetamol if they buy it using a PBS-subsidised prescription, which also attracts a taxpayer subsidy on top," she said.

However, Crofton St Pharmacy manager Campbell Gradon feared people with chronic conditions such as osteo-arthritis could be financially penalised in two ways - the products would potentially cost more than the current $6.10 concession card price and they would not count towards their safety net.

Mr Gradon said if the government subsidy was removed from these items, the associated government control on prices would also be removed and drug companies would be free to set whatever price they liked.

"If paracetamol is no longer funded then people may get prescribed more potent medications than they require to manage their pain and this may lead to more side effects," he said.

"They will take longer to become entitled to extra subsidies for their medicines. This will financially penalise the most vulnerable in society," he said.

Mr Gradon said the $2 pack of paracetamol-prices quoted by the Federal Government would only apply in some pharmacies.

"Those who have the greatest need of government support in their healthcare will be left out of pocket," he said.

Ms Ley has accepted a recommendation to keep other, more expensive medicines on the PBS, including Ventolin and adrenalin epipens.



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