Cost of medicines a key election issue

Health and community pharmacy peak bodies have formed a coalition urging parties to recognise medicine affordability as a key election issue.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the Australian Patients Association, Chronic Pain Australia and Musculoskeletal Australia, say 30 per cent of voters are struggling to afford medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia president Trent Twomey says many Australians are worried about access to preventive health care as the cost of living increases.

“Community pharmacies see patients struggling to afford medicines from prescription to prescription and from pay cheque to pay cheque … we want a truly universal healthcare system in which PBS medicines are affordable to all,” Professor Twomey said.

“The best way to help these Australians is to cut the PBS co-payment to help patients afford essential medicines from script to script. For many households, these medicines are the cost of staying alive.”

Chronic Pain Australia president Fiona Hodson is advocating that all Australians living with chronic pain receive a “triple A” standard of care: awareness, accessibility and affordability.

She says the government can have a role in making health care more affordable to more than 19 million Australians.

“At the rate the co-payment is increasing, Australians will pay nearly $50 a script for some PBS medicines within the next five years. This is a huge impost on people living with chronic pain and other debilitating conditions,” she said.

Many Australians struggling to afford medicines had come forward, Prof Twomey said, including 20,000 people who signed a petition to reduce the PBS co-payment.

According to studies by the participating organisations, 36 per cent of people believe prescription medicines are too expensive, and 20 per cent say the cost is outside their regular budget.

The research has also found healthcare issues could be a determining factor in how people vote in the federal election, with 88 per cent of “soft voters” saying they will support candidates who commit to action on affordability.


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