Retail giants drove $1 discount uptake

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Large discount chains and urban pharmacies are the predominant adopters of the controversial $1 PBS discount, data shows

A much higher proportion of scripts have been subject to the $1 PBS co-payment discount in urban locations and by large discount pharmacy chains, according to information presented to Parliament. 

A Department of Health response to a question at the May round of Senate Estimates hearings revealed that large discount chains applied the $1 discount to around 80 per cent of PBS scripts they dispensed.

In contrast, pharmacies who were not part of a recognised discount chain only applied the discount to around 25 per cent of scripts they dispensed.

A similar discrepancy occurred according to location, with much higher proportions of scripts having the discount applied in urban areas. 

“The more remote a pharmacy was, the lower the proportion of PBS scripts to which the $1 discount was applied,” the Department said in its response.

The $1 PBS co-payment discount has been available for pharmacies to apply to prescriptions since 1 January 2016.

Speaking to AJP earlier this year, a Guild spokesperson said the optional dollar discount was “a flawed piece of health policy and we have opposed it from the beginning”.

“It breaches the universality of the PBS – because it means some patients will pay more than other patients for the same subsidised medicine. It also provides no net financial benefit for the sickest and neediest patients who will pay the same total amount in the calendar year for their medicines – but their access to the safety net will be delayed. 

“The discount also discriminates against patients in rural and regional Australia where economic conditions might mean local pharmacies are unable to provide the discount. All in all, a very bad policy, and we continue to explore ways to be rid of it”.

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