The Guild has reportedly “declared war” on discounters like Chemist Warehouse, which says the suggested copay reduction would be a “backward step for consumers”
General patients would pay a $19 copayment for prescription medicines from as early as 1 January 2022, under medicines affordability reforms being presented to political leaders by the Pharmacy Guild.
A presentation sighted by the AJP cites National Australia Bank data from 2021 which showed almost 20% of people earning $35,000 or less did not fill a script because they could not afford it.
In 2019-20, more than 900,000 people delayed getting or did not get a script filled due to cost, the Guild says.
“We just need to address the simple undeniable fact that the general co-payment in Australia has completely outpaced the ability for Australians to meet those costs,” Guild national president Trent Twomey told News Corp health reporter Sue Dunlevy over the weekend.
“We have the highest copay out of a basket of countries in the OECD, we have the third highest level of people skipping medications in the OECD.”
The Guild is putting forward a “patient centric” policy reform which it says would improve affordability, restore universality and improve medication adherence.
It suggests two options: either one drop to a $19 general copayment effective 1 January 2022 from the current $41.30; or a phased reduction of the general copayment, starting in January 2022 and reaching $19 at 1 January 2026.
The first option would see the copay return to indexation as per current policy the next year.
The second would see a reduction of about $5 in the copayment each year, then returning to indexation.
Concessional copayments would be maintained at CPI as with the current policy.
The Guild will reportedly campaign strongly for the proposal during the next Federal election.
The Guild argues that the proposal will improve Australians’ ability to stick to their prescribed medicines regimen, thus reducing related health care costs down the line.
It also says that raising biosimilar uptake will contribute to the fiscal sustainability of the PBS.
News Corp media reported this proposal on the weekend as the Pharmacy Guild having “declared war on discount chemist chains like Chemist Warehouse”.
“It sounds like the deal of the century — half price prescription medicines — but there’s a sting in the tail,” Ms Dunlevy wrote.
“…chemists who discounted medicines that cost more than the new $19 patient charge would have to dispense them as private scripts and they would not count towards the safety net — making the reduction to $6.60 impossible.”
A spokesperson for Chemist Warehouse told the AJP that in 2020, there were 96 million scripts dispensed at a price under the general patient co-payment of $41.30.
“This is the ‘competition window’ within the PBS, where pharmacies discount and price match,” the spokesperson said.
“By reducing the co-payment to $19, the capacity of discount pharmacies to offer consumers cheaper prices for PBS prescriptions will be severely restricted.
“This proposal is not about making medicines more affordable, it’s about making discount PBS medicine prices a thing of the past.
“We think that would be a backward step for consumers,” the spokesperson said.
“Why should a consumer be required by law to pay $19 for a PBS prescription when many pharmacies are currently prepared to price that same prescription well below $19, while retaining the PBS safety net provisions for consumers?
“It just doesn’t seem fair or in the interests of Australian consumers.”