Do Aussies pay too much to treat hayfever?


The cost of allergy treatment is restricting access for some, stakeholders warn as we head into hayfever season

Australian with allergies pay more than their counterparts overseas, Channel Nine News claims following an investigation into pricing.

But the Pharmacy Guild has queried whether such international comparisons are helpful or accurate.

The Nine investigation compared a pack of Claratyne at $26.99 with the same product, a pack of Clarityn in the UK, at a cost of £9 (AUD$14.60).

It also found that a 30-pack of Zyrtec cost $20.99, with a generic brand costing $18.99 and a UK medicine with the active cetirizine hydrochloride costing £1.30 (AUD$2.11).

However a Bayer spokesperson told Nine that its largest pack of Claratyne – a 75-pack – costs $29.99 at Chemist Warehouse or 40c per tablet, dropping to 32c per tablet if consumers took advantage of its $6 cashback program.

This was a lower price than the 49c per tablet available in the UK, the spokesperson said.

“International comparisons of medicine prices don’t take into account different medicine purchasing systems and market sizes, creating anomalies,” a Pharmacy Guild spokesperson told the AJP.

“Some drugs may be cheaper in other jurisdictions; some may be more expensive.

“As the Channel Nine story shows, competitive discounting in Australia can produce prices well below the UK comparison for the hayfever products mentioned.”

CEO of Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia Maria Said told the AJP that the organisation was aware that for some people, “the cost of medications is an issue”.

This pertains as much to specialist treatment as to OTCs available in pharmacy, however.

“A lot of people don’t actually go to their GP and get properly diagnosed and get information on how to handle it,” she says.

“People need to be properly diagnosed and guided by specialists; some need prescriptions but others take a Band-Aid approach and take whatever they get over the counter at pharmacies.

“Many people with allergic rhinitis have other allergic conditions, such as eczema or asthma.

“So when you think of the cost of medicines, they do add up: they’re very expensive by the time people get nasal sprays, antihistamines, asthma puffers and cream for their eczema and it really is a significant amount of money.

“So you do get people who can’t afford the nasal sprays they should be having, or the right combination of medicines.

“Then, of course, there’s immunotherapy – for some people it is appropriate to decrease their sensitivity to particular allergens such as pollen or dust mites, but it is very expensive and can cost $1000 a year.”

As the hayfever season begins, she encouraged pharmacists to refer patients who present with hayfever to their doctors to investigate whether prescription or other treatments can help.

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