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Transcript of the Prime Minister's weekly radio message: [Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme].

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***embargoed until 12.01am 20 November 2006***


20 November 2006


The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is world-class and the envy of other countries. It gives all Australians a wide range of essential medicines at affordable prices.

Last year the Government paid more than $6 billion in PBS subsidies on 600 medicines, filling the gap between the standard co-payment outlaid by patients and the actual cost of the medicines.

The PBS is a very important part of the social security safety net that makes Australia better placed to protect the vulnerable in the community.

However, the Government has been paying too much for many medicines where there are other brands available for lower prices.

Even a good scheme can be made better and that is what the Government will do with the PBS.

In the next few years, the Government will change the PBS to provide more value for money while ensuring new and expensive medicines remain available to patients.

Importantly, the fundamentals of the PBS remain untouched. One of the main differences will be that the price the Government pays for the medicine will better reflect the market price.

The changes will save taxpayers more than $3 billion over the next 10 years helping ensure the PBS remains economically sustainable into the future.

Patients will continue to meet only the standard co-payments. There will be no change in the numbers or range of medicines available to patients.

Another benefit is that there is less likelihood that in the future medicines will be withdrawn from the PBS or that additional patient charges will be added.

This is another example of the how the Government’s responsible economic management can provide better services to taxpayers.

Good economic policies mean nothing if the benefits are not passed on to families and individuals. These changes will make the PBS an even stronger system, meaning patients, pharmacists, doctors and the taxpayer will be better off.