Why Is Medication So Expensive In Australia?

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Anastrozole, a medication for breast cancer treatment, costs $19.20 for a box of 30 1mg tablets in Australia. In Britain, it costs $2.45.

On average, prescription medication costs four times more in Australia than the rest of the world, and it means six per cent of patients are either delaying, or just not taking necessary medication.

According to SMH, a report from The Gratton Institute is calling on the government to add an international price benchmarking system to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) - like the one Canada, New Zealand and the European Union use - to rectify the issue.

Researchers Stephen Duckett and Priyanka Banerjee said this should be done in concert with the existing price disclosure policy.

"The pharmaceutical industry is too closely involved in Australia's current therapeutic group premium policy," Duckett and Banerjee said. "After nearly two decades of operation in Australia, the policy is full of loopholes. It should be strengthened, so it is more like the pharmaceutical pricing policies used in comparable countries such as Germany."

At the moment, the pharmaceutical companies are required to reveal how much they charge pharmacies for medication on a yearly basis. The average price is then calculated by the government who then works out the PBS discount. The Grattan Institute wants to introduce a new, independent pricing authority that relies on international benchmarks to bring the price of medications down.

Within the PBS, medications are sorted into groups, along with those that achieve similar results. The government then pays for the lowest cost medication in each "group". The report says $445 million a year could be saved by increasing the list of groups from seven to 18 - with too few groups, the government ends up paying too much.

There is a price expected next month - 64 medications are set to fall by 25 per cent - but prices still almost twice as much as in the UK and 3.1 times higher than New Zealand.

The report also calls on the ACCC to relax rules around the location and establishment of pharmacies, and for pharmacists' roles to expand to administer vaccinations, provide medication information to patients, review medication usage, prescribe repeats and adjust doses.

The report said Australia's pharmacist fees are less than New Zealand's, Britain's and Canada's.

This article was originally published on Gizmodo Australia


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