The cost of hundreds of medicines will halve for people with chronic illnesses, who will be able to buy 60 days' worth of drugs for the price of a single prescription from September.
The change is to be introduced in next month's federal budget, but Warrawong pharmacist Peppe Raso says he's concerned that the government's decision could leave his customers worse off.
Health Minister Mark Butler said the move would deliver cost of living relief, as about six million Australians would be able to collect a two-month supply of common medicines rather than getting one month supply from September.
The government says people can save up to $180 a year on each medicine listed on the scheme, which will include common drugs to treat chronic diseases.
Under the change, patients will still pay the maximum co-payment of $30 but would receive two months' supply of their medication. Concession patients will pay $7.30 for their 60-day script.
The government estimates Australians will save more than $1.6 billion over four years.
Pharmacists, who receive dispensing fees from the government each time medication is sold, have spoken out against the move, which they say could exacerbate medication supply issues or cause chemists to close due the financial hit they will take.
Mr Raso, who works in one of the Illawarra's most disadvantaged areas, said he believed many his patients would not necessarily save money under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) shake-up.
He said this was because under the changes, it would take longer for patients to reach the PBS safety net which makes prescriptions free after a certain point.
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Like the Pharmacy Guild, Mr Raso was also concerned that allowing people to take home more medication could increase drug shortages.
"This has been the worst out of stock situation that we've seen since COVID, and COVID was actually better when people were grabbing medication left, right and centre, Hunger Games-type scenarios," he said.
He was also concerned it would create risks for patients.
"A lot of the drugs on there are antidepressants, antipsychotics, which are given to patients who are open to overdose," he said.
"So we're giving them two months' worth of medicine and they are potentially going to send them to hospital in an overdose situation.
"We're talking about medicines being in a home that kids can potentially have access to like two months of everything."
Mr Raso said a loss of income would make him and others reconsider their opening hours, which could send more people to hospital emergency departments for simple medical advice late at night or on public holidays.
In contrast, doctors have welcomed the 60-day scripts, with the GPs' lobby group calling the pharmacists' campaign a "scare tactic".
Royal Australian College of GPs President Dr Nicole Higgins said the budget measure was "a win for patients".
"Patients with a range of chronic conditions including heart disease will be able to save up to $180 a year and that will make a huge difference for so many households," she said.
"Some pharmacy owners may be concerned that they will lose retail sales however, at the end of the day cheaper access to lifesaving medications must come before retail sales, it's as simple as that."
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