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Price hikes to hit hard for pensioners on pills

The price of Panadol Osteo, made by GlaxoSmithKline, is about to rise. Picture: SuppliedMAKING commonly used medications more expensive could lead to unforeseen complications, pharmacists say, particularly for pensioners and others on a tight budget.
Nanjing Night Net

Pharmaceuticals giantGlaxoSmithKline has announced it will liftthe price of Panadol Osteo by 50 per cent on Friday, at the same time that it, and other common over-the-counter medicines, includingaspirin, and folic acid supplements,arede-listed from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The result is a significant price increase, according tothePharmacy Guild of Australia and Health MinsterSussan Ley who has askedtheAustralian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate.

The minister is also urging consumers to shop around, suggesting there aremore than 30 equally-effective paracetamolalternatives for osteoarthritis sufferers.

Pharmacy Guild Executive Director David Quilty is pushing for the de-listing of Panadol Osteo from the PBS to be reversed, given that the decision was made on the basis it would continue to be available over the counter at comparable prices.

Based on the guild’s analysis, those with a concession card will pay up to $142more per year for Panadol Osteothan they did with a prescription under the PBS.

Windale pharmacist Susan Van said customers were very unhappy about the price hikes,with complaints from more than 100 people so far.“A lot of our patients are elderly patients and they all have arthritisof some form,’’ she said.

GOING UP: Changes to the PBS may lead to complications for some patients who use common medications, says Windale pharmacist Susan Van. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

There was a serious risk that patients may start substituting with other medications still available under the PBS or were cheaper, she said, and people were mistaken if they thought they can easily substitute one type of paracetamol for another.

“If they use somethingelse that is not appropriate or codeine-based, then you have other problems, like bowel obstructions, or they may use other products which are not effective.

“They may be paracetamol based but it’s a different formulation, and if it’s not slow release they probably need to dose more often. I think there is a high chance people will start using codeine with Panadol because it’s stronger.”

Patients may also be tempted to skip certain medicines altogether to avoid paying more, she said.

“You may have people hospitalised if they can’t afford it, especially here in Windale and other lowsocio- economic areas.”

Many of those directly affected agree, saying that althoughthe price differences may seem small to some,it will be a serious budgeting issue for them.

Joanne Hayward, of Windale, said the changes would have a significant impact on herpartner,Darryl Gaynor, who needs regular vitamin B12 injections to help treat a liver condition.

“From $24 to $60 per year on a disability pension, it’s a difference of $35.60 which could be better spent on any number of different things due to his other healthproblems,’’ she said.

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