Here’s a simplistic statement: it’s better to be mentally ill in America or the UK than in Australia.
No, depression and anxiety aren’t more ‘fun’ in the northern hemisphere – however, many of the prescription medications used to treat a range of mental illnesses are significantly cheaper overseas.
A report on the ABC news last night revealed that Australians pay up to 10 times the amount British citizens pay for the same drugs. One example cited was olanzapine, which is a go-to drug in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
High prices particularly affect those who are under the PBS safety net threshold and do not have a concession card, which can significantly lower the cost of scripts.
Dr Stephen Duckett, who represents the Grattan Institute and has co-authored a report on this issue, made some salient comments earlier in the year:
“We have been far too timid in our policies. To give you an example, currently the policy is that when a drug comes off patent there is supposed to be a 16% drop in the price. If I contrast that with Canada… there is to be an 82% drop in price. So compare a 16% drop and an 82% drop.”
“First of all we are paying $1.3 billion too much and obviously a lot of that will just go straight to the budget bottom line or to allow new drugs to come onto the PBS which have been delayed right now. We’ve got ever increasing demands in the health sector, and that $1.3 billion could go a long way to actually improving the system.”
The full interview with Dr Duckett is available here.
Also in recent and related news, three consumer groups have joined forces to campaign against expensive prescription medicines.
The Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Choice, and the Australian Council of Social Service want the Government to continue to accelerate price disclosure, which was announced in the days before the election date was set.
The groups are also calling for the cost of medicines, paid for under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), to be brought more into line with what pharmacy owners pay for them.
This is clearly a topical developing issue in the field of mental health and in the broader community.