Penington Institute firmly welcomes the announcement in the 2023-24 Budget that the Australian Government will commit $377.3 million dollars over 4 years to improving access to opioid dependence treatment medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
This commitment will significantly improve affordability and access to these essential medicines for tens of thousands of Australians. From July 2023, people prescribed opioid dependence medicines listed on the PBS will pay a co-payment to access their treatment at community pharmacies and will no longer be charged dispensing fees.
Dr Karen Gelb, Acting CEO of Penington Institute, applauded the move by the Government:
“This measure will reduce financial strain for thousands of people, supporting them to access their treatment and get on with living active, productive lives.”
Penington Institute has long advocated for equitable access to opioid dependence treatment medicines, such as methadone and buprenorphine. For too long, the unfair system of dispensing fees has set apart opioid dependence treatment patients from all other patients when accessing PBS-listed medicines.
The reforms will also bring national consistency to access, establishing a uniform payment for all people seeking these treatments through pharmacies, regardless of where they are located around Australia.
“This Government’s investment in sensible reform in this area sends a clear message about its attitude toward opioid dependence treatment patients. It shows they intend to support people and their health through fair, health-centred approaches, rather than focusing on punitive measures that disrupt and discourage treatment.”
While Penington Institute welcomes the Government’s commitment to this reform, there remain further obstacles impeding access to opioid dependence treatment medicines. We look forward to continuing to work with the Government on policy reform that prioritises community safety and health in relation to drugs.
Penington Institute is also eager to secure a commitment from the Government to continue funding The Bulletin publication. For over ten years, Penington Institute has produced The Bulletin for the Australian needle and syringe program (NSP) and broader health care sectors, providing highly valued and specialised knowledge to workers who support some of the most marginalised people in our community.