Question without notice: Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

08 February 2023

Ms BYRNES (Cunningham) (14:47):  My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. How is the Albanese Labor government changing people's lives by delivering on its election commitment to make medicines cheaper for millions of Australians?

Mr BUTLER (Hindmarsh—Minister for Health and Aged Care and Deputy Leader of the House) (14:48): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question and for her relentless advocacy for better health services in the Illawarra. In May last year we promised Australians cheaper medicines, and on 1 January this year we delivered on that promise, with the largest cut to the cost of medicines in the 75-year history of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. From 1 January our government has slashed the maximum price for general scripts from $42.50 to just $30. Someone taking one medication a month could save as much as $150 every year, but a family with two or three general scripts could save up to $450 a year.

We also promised to reduce the safety net threshold for millions of pensioners and concession card holders, and we delivered on that promise so that, over the course of the year, the most that those Australians will pay for PBS medicines is an average of just $5 per week. These changes to safety net threshold will benefit around 2.4 million Australians each and every year. We also promised to lift the income thresholds for seniors health card holders, and we delivered on that, with more older Australians now eligible for a seniors health card to access PBS medicines at cheaper prices and bulk-billed doctor visits.

Our cheaper-medicines policy is changing lives. Bec from Sydney said: 'Thank you, Albo. As a daily user of several medications, this comes as a relief when buying prescriptions, so thank you to you and to your government.' Maxwell James from South Australia said: 'Today I was able to fill my heart medication script for just $30, instead of $42.50.' Cheaper medicines mean people can afford to pay for them and not go without other household items.

We are continuing to deliver on our promise to list new medicines on the PBS as quickly as possible. Just last week we listed Opicapone on the PBS to treat Parkinson's. It's a treatment that helps other medications operate more effectively and for longer. Around 1,300 Australians living with Parkinson's would otherwise pay as much as $1,800 every year for this treatment. Now they will just pay $30 maximum for a general script. Simon, a 45-year-old who has been living with Parkinson's for nine years, working and trying to live independently, said, 'This offers myself and other Australians living with Parkinson's more options and more choice.'

Since 1 July just last year, our government has made 65 new or amended listings on the PBS. Cheaper medicine is not just good for the hip pocket at a time of rising prices; it's also good for Australia's health.