Budget 2024: New data reveals how much Aussies saved on medicines

People living in NSW saved $75 million on 6.7 million scripts under major prescription changes that kicked in last year, according to new figures from the government.

Health Minister Mark Butler said Australians saved up to $250 million after the cost of hundreds of medicines was halved as part of a shake-up of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The changes, which kicked in on January 1 2023, led Victorians to save $63m on PBS medicines followed by Queenslanders who saved $47m on 4.1 million scripts.

Residents from Western Australia pocketed $27m in the past year and those living in South Australia have saved $15 million.

Meanwhile those in the ACT saved $6.2 million on 500,000 prescriptions in 2023 and Tasmania saved a total of $5 million, data shows.

Another significant change to PBS prescription medicines in 2024 will be a staged increase in the number of medicines available for 60-day dispensing.

Almost 2 million 60-day scripts were dispensed last year after people were allowed to buy two months’ worth of medicines for the price of a single monthly prescription. The scheme, which has been fiercely opposed by Australia’s peak pharmacy bodies, was launched on September 1 and saw 92 medicines added to the list.

The number of medications available on 60-day scripts is projected to increase to 300 by September 2024, the Health Minister confirmed.

In addition to savings the government has announced that it will add a new treatment for advanced stage melanoma to the PBS.

Australia has some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with one person dying from melanoma every six hours.

From 1 February 2024, people with advanced melanoma will have access to the combination medicine Opdualag.

Health Minister Mark Butler said people would be paying over $315,000 for the treatment without the subsidy and estimated 940 patients each year will benefit from the listing.

Adelaide mother and melanoma patient Felicity Lloyd said access to tailored treatments for people living with the deadly disease in Australia was improving.

“Having access to new treatments through the PBS is really important, I experienced first-hand the difference access makes to people’s lives,” she said.

Health Minister Mark Butler is expected to hold a press conference to announce the changes on Sunday morning.

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