Three major health, consumer and social sector groups have joined together in a campaign to highlight the high prices paid for prescription medicines in Australia.
The Consumers Health Forum of Australia, CHOICE and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) are calling on consumers to put pressure on MPs and candidates for the coming federal election to ‘Stand up for Cheaper Medicines’.
Their move follows the launch of a ‘Save my local pharmacy’ campaign by the Pharmacists Guild of Australia following changes by the Federal Government to the price disclosure regime for PBS medicines earlier this month.
The Guild says the changes could cost at least $32,000 per pharmacy in 2014-15, jeopardising the livelihoods of hundreds of pharmacies and costing thousands of jobs and it’s calling for compensation.
CHF, ACOSS and CHOICE reject the claims, saying Australian families are now being forced to pay some of the highest prices for medicines in the world – up to ten times the British price for the same prescription medicine. For example, they say:
• The common anti-cholesterol drug Atorvastatin costs four times more in Australia than in the UK
• The bipolar medication Olanzapine costs 11 times the UK price ($164 per script in Australia).
• The anti-clotting drug Clopidogrel costs nearly 3 times the UK price.
• Other widely prescribed drugs, including cholesterol drug Simvastatin, anti-depressant Venlafaxine, reflux medication, Pantoprazole, schizophrenia drug Risperidone and hypertension drug Irbesartan cost Australians up to double the British and NZ prices
The groups say 15 per cent of Australians struggle to pay for their prescriptions and that mark-ups on medicines, being charged to consumers and taxpayers, have amounted to billions of dollars in the past decade.
Disclosure: Marie McInerney works part-time for the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS).