A $50 prescription drug may not sound like a lot, but it could save a life.
Australia is poised to introduce a bill that will allow pharmacists to sell up to six of the commonly prescribed anti-malaria medicines for up to $50 a pill.
Drugs and pharmacy workers who have been prescribed anti, antiviral and anti-bacterial medicines for decades are now eligible to apply for the dispensing privileges, which would allow them to sell these drugs for $40 a pill to customers who don’t require the medicines for their primary healthcare.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the dispensers would be limited to three a day and that the cost of the drug would be covered by Medicare.
“This is a very important legislation that is a matter of urgency in Australia,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“We want to make sure that Australians have access to medicines that are not only affordable, but are also effective, and that they have the flexibility to manage their conditions and their health, and have the confidence to do that.”
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is the main payment mechanism for prescription medicines in Australia, and it covers the cost to prescription drug manufacturers of all the medicines sold in Australia.
The government is also seeking a mandate from the Senate to change the prescription drug supply chain.
The proposal comes amid an escalating crisis in Australia over drug pricing, with the government facing a $1.6 billion shortfall of medicines in 2016-17, the highest in the OECD and a third of the global average.
Last week, Morrison announced that the government would seek a mandate to introduce legislation to make it easier for pharmacists in the country to sell anti-viral medicines and anti-“bacterial” medicines to the general public.
“Australians deserve access to affordable and effective medicines and I believe this legislation will help reduce the cost and the burden of prescription drug costs in Australia to a point where it’s no longer necessary,” he said.
“It will be more cost effective for drug companies and consumers.”
“There will be some significant cost savings to pharmacy owners but I would hope that that’s a small price to pay to make the public safer and our economy grow.”‘
A great relief’The Australian Pharmacy Association said it was “encouraged” by the announcement, and welcomed the move to allow the dispenser to sell more medicines, saying the dispensation of anti-parasitic drugs would be “a great relief” for many Australians who rely on them for their own health.
“These are drugs that were available to us when we were in the 1970s, and we need to be able to use them for our own healthcare, and for our families,” the association’s chief executive, Richard Rimmer, told the ABC.
“And it’s great that this government has decided to look at this as an opportunity to address some of these issues.”
In December, a new government government, led by Morrison, announced it would set a price for all prescription medicines to be set by the end of 2018.
This will be the first time in 30 years that prescription drugs will be priced in Australia as a direct result of government policy, and could affect the prices of many drugs.
Drug prices are often set by a combination of government policies and the price of the medicines themselves.