The current “Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) community awareness campaign” explicitly links the difficulties facing the PBS to patient behaviour and “waste”. The campaign suggests that patients are taking advantage of affordable access to prescription medicines, and emphasises that patient responsibility is “the prescription for a healthy PBS”. By neglecting to inform the public that the pressures facing the PBS also include doctors’ prescribing habits and intensive pharmaceutical industry marketing, the campaign has missed an opportunity to initiate a balanced and constructive debate about the future viability of the PBS.
It has become something of an axiom that increasing cost is endangering the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), and that something must be done about it. Typically, policy responses have been to target the prescription end-user — the patient. Successive governments have increased patients’ out-of-pocket charges as a means of containing drug costs. The present federal Government, thwarted thus far by the Senate in its attempt to increase the patient co-payment, is trying an alternative — appealing to patients’ moral sensibilities rather than their hip-pocket nerve.
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