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PBS co-payment rises, but cancer, diabetes drugs cheaper

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Patients have been slugged with a 2 per cent hike in their co-payment for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescriptions, but will gain subsidised access to cancer and diabetes medicines from next month.

In an announcement on 3 January, the Government revealed that the PBS co-payment for general patients has been raised from $36.10 to $36.90 (for concession patients, from $5.90 to $6), and the safety net threshold has increased from $1390.60 to $1421.20.

The modest 2.2 per cent increase is in line with inflation but, combined with speculation the Government may back a proposed $6 patient co-payment for GP bulk billed services, heightens concerns that health care costs are increasingly being transferred directly onto families and may discourage people from seeking necessary care and treatment.

The PBS hike came after Health Minister Peter Dutton announced several drugs and combination medicines would be added to the PBS on 1 February.

Mr Dutton said the diabetes medications Aloglitpin and Metformin, which are currently listed individually, will from next month be listed as a combination dose (under the name Nesina Met), providing a substantial $36.90 saving to patients.

“More than 50,000 people are expected to obtain the combined medicine through the PBS over the next five years,” he said. “With an average of seven packs each over that period, this represents a considerable saving to people with diabetes.”

The Government has also approve the listing of cancer treatments Erlotinib (sold as Tarceva) and Gefitinib (sold as Iressa).

The drugs are used in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.

Several other listed medicines will become cheaper from 1 April as a result of price disclosure arrangements, including:

·        gastric reflux treatment Rabreprazole, which will be up to $8.78 cheaper per prescription;

·        depression medicine Escitalopram, up to $3.43 cheaper per script; and

·        cholesterol treatment Simvastatin, up to $5.18 cheaper.

Adrian Rollins