Media event date: 
30 June 2020
Date published: 
1 July 2020
Media type: 
Media release
Audience: 
General public

The importance of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme has been underlined with new and amended medicines listings on the PBS, and an extension to emergency dispensing measures to support patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

From 1 July the medicine Ozempic® (semaglutide) will be listed on the PBS as a new treatment option for type 2 diabetes.

Ozempic® is a new once-weekly blood sugar (glucose) lowering treatment for the treatment of patients with insufficiently controlled type 2 diabetes.

In Australia, type 2 diabetes accounts for over half of all diabetes deaths. An estimated one million Australian adults (5%) had type 2 diabetes in 2017‑18.

Lack of exercise, weight gain and a poor diet increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Treating this condition is critically important to prevent long-term complications, such as heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.

In 2019, over 40,000 patients accessed a comparable treatment for this chronic condition through the PBS and will now be eligible for this treatment option. Without the subsidy, patients would pay more than $1,700 per course of Ozempic®. They’ll now pay $41 per script, or $6.60 with a concession card.

From 1 July, the listing of Tecentriq® (atezolizumab) will be expanded and improved to include a new form and treatment regimen to assist patients with small cell lung cancer.

This change will provide patients with a more convenient treatment option. Patients will be able to access a four weekly dosing regimen when receiving continuing treatment with this medicine, which will mean they do not need to go to their doctor as often for their treatment.

This will particularly benefit those in rural or remote areas.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the fifth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia. 

Small cell lung cancer usually begins in the middle of the lungs and spreads more quickly than non-small cell lung cancer. It accounts for around 15 per cent of lung cancers.

An estimated 1,000 patients per year will require treatment with Tecentriq. What might have cost them more than $50,000 per course of treatment is available for $41 per script, or $6.60 with a concession card.

These listings have been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Since 2013, the Australian Government has approved more than 2,400 new or amended listings on the PBS. This represents an average of around 30 listings or amendments per month—or one each day—at an overall investment by the Government of $11.6 billion.

In addition to the listings, the Government has extended emergency measures for the dispensing of PBS medicines to 30 September 2020.

The emergency measures allow community pharmacists, under strict conditions, to give patients up to one month’s supply of their PBS medicine, once in a twelve month period, without a prescription.

People must previously have been prescribed this medicine and the pharmacist must be satisfied the need is urgent.

These temporary arrangements, put in place in January 2020, were in response to the bushfire crisis and then extended to assist physical distancing and reduce demand on doctors as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded.

Between 1 April and 31 May 2020, more than 75,000 medications were dispensed under this measure. The most commonly dispensed medications were for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, reflux, and depressive or anxiety related disorders.

This year has seen unprecedented challenges for all Australians and their dedicated health professionals. The extension of the temporary emergency dispensing arrangements provides more support and flexibility at this difficult time.

The Government thanks Australia’s pharmacists, doctors, pharmaceutical wholesalers and pharmacy software providers for their agility and continued support during COVID-19.

More information about the extension of emergency arrangements for dispensing medicines is on the Department of Health website at www.PBS.gov.au.

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