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National advertising campaign on medicines

A $4 million Federal Government funded advertising campaign will hit TV screens across Australia from this Sunday, urging people to have a say in the choice and cost of their medicines.

The ads have been developed by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia as part of an information package about the changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which come into effect on February 1.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Family Services, the Hon Trish Worth MP, said the advertising campaign will encourage consumers to discuss with their doctor and pharmacist the choices available to treat their illness.

Under the changes, the PBS will subsidise a base price for some medicines which treat high blood pressure, heart disease, peptic ulcers and oesophageal reflux - these changes affect only 113 out of 1800 medicines listed on the PBS.

"Some manufacturers have chosen to leave their medicines at a higher price and if consumers want to stay on those products, they will have to pay a small cost," Ms Worth said.

The average increase for the 28 drugs that will cost more is about $2, ranging from 71 cents to $4.63.

"Consumers have the choice to pay no extra because the drugs have been grouped to ensure that where there is a higher priced medicine, there is also a medication at the base price which has a similar clinical effect for the patient.

"It is up to people to talk with their doctor to decide if they want to stay on their medicine and pay a little extra, or whether to switch to another medication".

Ms Worth said the TV ad, which features a community pharmacist, urges consumers to talk with their doctor and pharmacist to see if they are affected, and if so, discuss the options available to them.

"The grouping of drugs was endorsed by an independent panel of medical and scientific experts and finalised only after consultation with peak medical groups to ensure patients weren't being left without a safe and effective alternative.

"The $500 million expected to be saved over the next four years by these measures will be put straight back into the health system to enable the PBS to continue subsidising new, innovative and clinically superior medicines," Ms Worth said.

"The Government will also be spending $2.76 billion this financial year on the PBS to ensure Australians continue to have access to the best available drugs".

In addition to the TV ads, the Pharmacy Guild and the Government are also running advertisements on radio and in metropolitan, regional and suburban newspapers.

"If people aren't planning to see their doctor or pharmacist in the near future, they can call the PBS Information Line on 1800 020 613 to find out if they'll be affected by the changes," Ms Worth said.

Media contact:

Karen Halbert, Trish Worth's office- 02 6277 4927; 0412 119 389