Sixty day dispensing of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines

Learn about the changes to Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicine prescriptions.

About 60 day dispensing of PBS medicines

From 1 September 2023, many patients living with a chronic condition will be able to buy 2 months’ worth (60-days’) of common PBS-listed medicines for the price of a single prescription, rather than the current 1 month’s supply.

This will apply to more than 300 common medicines listed on the PBS and will be implemented in three tranches over 12 months.

When fully implemented on 1 September 2024, the changes will mean at least 6 million Australians who need regular medicines for chronic conditions will reduce their medicine costs, some by as much as half.

The list of PBS medicines recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) as suitable includes some medicines for chronic conditions such as for:

  • Asthma
  • breast cancer
  • cardiovascular disease
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • constipation
  • chronic renal failure
  • Crohn’s disease
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • endometriosis
  • endometrial cancer
  • epilepsy
  • glaucoma and dry eyes
  • gout
  • heart failure
  • high cholesterol
  • hormonal replacement and modulation therapy
  • hypertension
  • osteoporosis
  • Parkinson disease
  • ulcerative colitis.

Benefits and cost savings

When a PBS medicine can be prescribed for 60 days patients can save:

  • up to $180 a year, per medicine for general patients
  • up to $43.80 a year, per medicine for concession card holders.

Patients are expected to save more than $1.6 billion over the next 4 years through the introduction of 60-day dispensing, with some patients halving their annual PBS medicine costs. A patient only on 60-day dispensing will halve the number of trips to the GP and pharmacist, just to fill a script for that medicine. This will free up millions of GP visits and make it easier to see a doctor.

How it works

Clinical experts from the independent PBAC recommended introducing 60-day prescribing for stable, chronic conditions.

More than 300 PBS-listed medicines have been reviewed and recommended by PBAC as suitable for 60-day prescribing – the full list is available on the Medicine List for Increased Dispensing Quantities.

Importantly, doctors will have the option to prescribe medicines for either 30 or 60-day dispensing, according to their professional clinical judgement.

Medicine supply

Moving to 60-day dispensing won’t cause medicine shortages. While eligible patients will be able to buy double the medicine on a single prescription, overall demand for medicines will remain unchanged.

These changes mean eligible Australians will buy the same amount of medicine overall, with fewer trips to the pharmacy.

Of the more than 300 medicines PBAC recommended for 60-day prescribing, the vast majority have no shortage of supply in Australia.

Medicine shortages can occur for various reasons, such as shortages of raw material, transport issues, factory quality control issues, temporary factory closures and natural disasters.

Most shortages are short-term, temporary disruptions and are often limited to some brands, strengths or formulations.

For example, as at 11 May 2023:

  • Acetec® (a brand of enalapril) is currently listed as subject to a shortage. There are several other brands available through the PBS, four of which have no brand price premium. 
  • Zoloft® 50 mg tablet (a brand of sertraline) is listed as subject to a shortage but there are several alternative brands available through the PBS, all brand price premium free. 
  • Simpral® (a brand of pramipexole) is listed as subject to a shortage but several alternative brands across both strengths are available through the PBS, all brand price premium free.

Implementing 60-day dispensing in three phases over 12 months, along with the likelihood that eligible patients will exhaust their existing prescriptions first, will minimise the disruption to pharmacies and allow supply chains to adapt.

Helping to ensure good medicine supply

Medicine shortages and information are reported to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Businesses must notify the TGA when the supply of a medicine is not likely to meet the normal or projected consumer demand in Australia at any point during the next 6 months. 

The Australian Government has also made changes to ensure manufacturers of many of these medicines have more onshore stockholdings, with these requirements starting on 1 July 2023. See: Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) | Medicines Supply Security Guarantee

This will ensure there is stock in the supply chain for wholesalers to deliver to pharmacies to meet any temporary increase in demand.

If a pharmacy is running low on medicine, for most medicines, wholesalers are required to deliver to any pharmacy within 24 hours.

View Minister Butler's media release on Cheaper medicines to ease cost of living.

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