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Australian drug prices low by world standards


Doug Hendrie


25/11/2019 2:41:42 PM

A new report has found Australians are paying among the lowest prices in the world for generic prescription drugs.

Medications in a trolley
Australia does well by world standards on the cost of medication.

Australia ranks 11th out of 50 countries for cheapest generic drugs, paying 36% less than the median price.
 
The 2019 Medicine Price Index ranks 13 common compounds across the countries, including popular antidepressants and medications for asthma, heart disease, depression and anxiety.
 
New Zealand has cheaper generics, paying 87% less than the median.
 
Australians are also paying an average of 7% less than the median price for branded drugs.
 
On average across both categories, Australia was paying 25% less than the global median.
 
By comparison, Americans pay four times as much as the median price for branded drugs – the highest in the world.
 
But a Grattan Institute report from 2017 found Australians are still paying too much for prescription drugs, claiming savings of half a billion dollars could still be found through reforming drug pricing policy. 
 
University of South Australia pharmaceutical benefits scheme specialist Dr Anna Kemp-Casey told the ABC she is not surprised to see Australia do well in the latest report.
 
‘Our Commonwealth does a really good job of negotiating prices for things that go on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme [PBS],’ she said.
 
‘In terms of things we’d be expecting people to be using a lot of in Australia … they are the very low-priced ones, and that makes sense,’ she said.
 
Not all common drugs were less expensive than overseas, however, with much higher prices seen for alprazolam (sold as Xanax) and insulin glargine (sold as Lantus).
 
The PBS covers the major cost of most prescription drugs in Australia.
 
Around 70% of all PBS subscriptions filled last year included a government co-payment, requiring general patients to pay $29.50 and concession card holders to pay $6.40.
 
Electronic prescribing – set to come in next year – is also expected to be a money saver for the PBS, as active-ingredient prescribing will be the default option for electronic prescribing in a bid to boost the uptake of generic and biosimilar medicine.

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