Australian’s affected by bushfires will be able to access their medicines in an emergency at PBS prices

A temporary expansion of PBS Continued Dispensing to cover nearly all PBS medicines will mean Australians affected by the bushfire crisis will be able to access their vital medicines at regular PBS prices if they find themselves without a prescription, following a move strongly welcomed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA).


Under the temporary change announced this afternoon by Health Minister Hon Greg Hunt, from Monday 13 January 2020, pharmacists will be able to offer standard quantities of ongoing PBS medicines for the standard co-payment– being $6.60 for concession card holders, and up to a maximum of $41.00 for general patients – where PBS medicines are supplied without a prescription in an emergency situation.


This move supports the recent issue of temporary authorities to legally supply full-supplies of these medicines in an emergency in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT.


Prior to this announcement, the PBS Continued Dispensing initiative only applied to PBS-listed oral contraceptives and cholesterol lowering medicines. This meant consumers were unable to access PBS subsidies when pharmacists supplied most medicines under emergency supply provisions. This resulted in patients suffering significant surprise out-of-pocket costs when accessing medicines in an emergency.


Natalie Thorton was evacuated from Eden to Merimbula with her husband and children. The last matter on her mind was remembering to take any prescription medicines with her. Mrs Thorton said “an emergency evacuation from an out of control bushfire was so traumatic, being able to walk in to the pharmacy and get the medicines my family required in a caring and supportive environment was one less thing that I had to worry about”.


In welcoming the move, PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman said, “PSA have been working with the government and its departments on this issue for many months and we congratulate the leadership shown by the Health Minister on today’s announcement.”


“The last thing people need in the middle of this crisis is to find the money to pay for their medicines which would have otherwise been subsidised. This provision will make a huge different to unfair and unexpected out-of-pocket medicine expenses for people who are displaced by fires.”


“PSA’s existing Guidelines for the continued dispensing of eligible prescribed medicines by pharmacists provide clear information to pharmacists on how to appropriately supply of medicines in these situations. I am confident pharmacists will adhere to these requirements when supplying PBS medicines under this temporary expansion.


PSA believes more work is needed to enable provisions to be automatically available when the next disaster strikes.


“We are keen to work with the federal government in collaboration with their state and territory counterparts after this crisis subsides to permanently incorporate effective and nationally consistent emergency supply provisions,” Associate Professor Freeman noted.


“PSA will continue to advocate for a long term solution on behalf of all Australians. We need nationally consistent emergency supply rules for medicines which ensure patients get the medicines they urgently need at the price they know and can afford” said Associate Professor Freeman.


The expanded PBS Continued Dispensing provisions takes effect from Monday 13 January 2020 and expires on 31 March 2020.


PSA will communicate this temporary change to pharmacists in addition to information published on the Department of Health website via www.pbs.gov.au.


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