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43281150 - medicines with money inside

What are the ten most commonly dispensed, and the ten most expensive drugs on the PBS at the moment? 

A drug used to treat eye conditions such as macular degeneration cost the taxpayer almost $400 million in 2019/2020, newly released data has revealed.

Analysis of 2019/20 PBS and RPBS data has shown the most commonly prescribed drugs as well as the ten costliest medications to government.

The data, published in Australian Prescriber, shows that many of the ten most expensive drugs are biologicals – based on monoclonal antibodies.

Heading the list is aflibercept (Eylea), followed by the cancer treatment nivolumab (Opdivo).

Meanwhile, cholesterol-lowering drugs and blood pressure drugs made up most of the top ten most commonly used prescription drugs in Australia in 2019-2020. Rosuvastatin and atorvastatin top the list for both the total number of prescriptions during the 12 month period, but also in terms of the most defined daily doses taken by patients. 

The antidepressant sertraline (sold under the trade name Zoloft) is a new entry to the list of most commonly prescribed drugs by population. 

The tables below show the top 10 drugs for the year July 2019 – June 2020. The figures are based on
PBS and RPBS prescriptions from the date of supply. The figures include prescriptions under
the co-payment (non-subsidised).

Table 1: Top 10 PBS/RPBS drugs by DDD/1000 population/day

  1. atorvastatin  72.93 DDD/1000 pop/day
  2. rosuvastatin 61.03
  3. perindopril   52.34
  4. amlodipine  50.15
  5. candesartan 33.52
  6. telmisartan  32.19
  7. irbesartan   29.87
  8. ramipril       26.44
  9. sertraline    25.67
  10. metformin  25.5

*DDD = defined daily dose

Table 2: Top 10 PBS/RPBS drugs by prescription counts

  1. rosuvastatin  12,968,693 prescriptions
  2. atorvastatin   11,241,737
  3. pantoprazole  8,283,205
  4. esomeprazole 8,171,291
  5. perindopril     6,688,735
  6. cefalexin       5,347,062
  7. metformin     5,183,224
  8. escitalopram 4,983,887
  9. amoxicillin    4,777,911
  10. sertraline     4,714,321

Table 3: Top 10 PBS/RPBS drugs by cost to government (does not include rebates)

Rows – drug cost to government, number of prescriptions

  1. aflibercept       $392,045,570    315,200 prescriptions
  2. nivolumab       $344,751,398    51,882
  3. pembrolizumab $342,875,272  38,860
  4. adalimumab    $320,969,041    257,328
  5. denosumab    $244,407,111     884,413
  6. sofosbuvir + velpatasvir $223,484,429 17,733
  7. ranibizumab    $218,085,968    190,126
  8. ustekinumab   $211,250,971     29,603
  9. apixaban        $210,022,698     2,580,428
  10. glecaprevir + pibrentasvir $186,730,613 9,956

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