Understanding changes to prescription medicine pricing

The price of some everyday prescription medicines is changing, but experts are calling for calm. From antibiotics to asthma medication, here’s everything you need to know.

You may have heard prices of medicine are going up. But experts say it is not a cause for concern.

What is happening to the price of medicine?

Chemist Warehouse director Mario Tascone says there will be a price rise to about 900 medications on October 1.

But he says the price rise is at a manufacturer level.

The price increase for manufacturers is the result of a deal struck with the generic medicines industry and the former Federal Government to overcome drug shortages.

Mario explains there were shortages in some medicines during the pandemic in 2020.

“At the time everyone really panicked, so with panic buying going on, it led to a few drugs being out of stock,” Mario says.

He says drug companies and the government got together to work out how to prevent more shortages in the future.

“The solution was for drug companies to raise their prices so they could carry more inventory in Australia so that shortages wouldn’t happen again,” Mario says.

“This secures the supply chain down the track to stop shortages in all these essential medicines.”

Manufacturers will now be required to hold a minimum of 4-6 months of stock in Australia for certain PBS-listed medicines.

The Department of Health and Aged Care explained the changes on its website, saying:

“Increasingly, global medicine shortages are interrupting supply of medicines that are the mainstay of treatment for some of the most prevalent health conditions in the Australian community.”

What does this mean for Australians at the checkout?

“For pensioners and concession card holders there will be no change to current prices they pay in store, which is currently $5.80 with the $1 discount that is in place at Chemist Warehouse,” Mario says.

“For general patients we’ll hold our prices post-October 1 to what they currently are.

“At Chemist Warehouse we will absorb those increase in prices and we won’t be raising any prices come first of October.

“That’s why I’d like to stress, there is no need to stock up before October, because the prices won’t change for most Australians come October 1.”

There may be changes at smaller pharmacies

A Pharmacy Guild of Australia spokesman says the increases in cost prices will flow through the supply chain to community pharmacies.

“As a result some patients without a concession card may see one-off increases in the price charged for some medicines from October 1,” he says.

What else do you need to know?

The House of Wellness radio show host Gerald Quigley, who is also a community pharmacist, says anyone with concerns about the changes should chat to their local pharmacist.

Written by Bianca Carmona.