Three tips to reduce the cost of your medicines 24 October 2022 By Donna Itzstein Pharmacist, Credentialled Diabetes Educator If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you possibly started not only glucose-lowering medication but blood pressure and cholesterol medication. These medications are necessary to reduce your risk of the impacts of diabetes. It is common for a person living with type 2 diabetes to be taking five or more medications. Similarly, as you age, those with type 1 diabetes may also find they require additional medications. This all adds to the financial burden of diabetes, and in these times of increased living costs it helps to make cost savings where you can. Tip 1: Make every prescription count towards your Safety Net. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) Safety Net scheme is similar to your Medicare Safety Net scheme. Most of the cost of your prescriptions can be added under the PBS safety net in a calendar year to give you a discounted or free number of prescriptions until the end of the year if you have reached the threshold. The scheme financially protects people and families requiring many PBS prescription items. For the scheme, the family includes the person’s: Partner or de facto partnerChildren under the age of 16 who are in the care and control of the personDependent full-time students under the age of 25. The safety net thresholds to receive discounted/free prescriptions at the time of writing this article is: $244.80 for concession card holders which equates to 36 prescriptions at $6.80 or 43 prescriptions if you are paying $5.80$1,457.10 for all other non-concessional card holders, which means 35 prescriptions to get to the threshold if the highest price you pay for a medication that PBS covers is $42.50. What you need to know is: Not all prescriptions will be charged at the highest amount; therefore, only the amount charged will be recorded. Your price may be slightly higher than what is recorded on your safety netPBS prescriptions can be from almost any pharmacy and hospital. There is no electronic link between pharmacies to collect your safety net records. You may regularly go to the same pharmacy; however, if you have a hospital stay or go on holiday, collect your safety net records when you collect your prescriptions and let your regular pharmacy know. External records can be included in the tally your pharmacy keeps, and you will get to your safety net sooner.Private prescriptions do not count towards the safety net. Tip 2: Take the generic options Medications with the same ingredient at the same dose that release the active ingredient in the same manner as the original brand are called generic options. If a medication is generic it doesn’t affect the quality of the medication. The companies that produce generic options must release safety and efficacy information to an Australian regulatory department, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The TGA is responsible for ensuring the safety of food, medications and medical devices in Australia. You can save with generic options for over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol, for example, Panadol versus Panamax. The generic options are usually less expensive than the original brand; here is an example: Diabex extended release 1000mg cost to you is $27.66 (concession $12.05) versus Diaformin XR 1000mg cost to you is $22.41 (concession $6.80). Both of these brands are supplied by Alphapharm; they have the same action, strength of active ingredient and quantity of tablets. Both have the same amount recorded towards your safety net. You may not wish to take the generic option if: You are allergic or intolerant to any of the filler ingredients that are commonly found in medicationsYou are taking a medication that must be tightly controlled – ask your Doctor about thisYou get confused about active ingredients or genericsYou wish to support the company that provided the research and development of your original medication brand. Tip 3: Shop around You often get what you pay for, so if your regular pharmacy is a little more expensive than the local discount pharmacy, you may choose to pay the little extra for good service and information. Good service and information are always worth the money when it comes to your health. If your regular pharmacy is a lot more expensive, you could ask them to match the price of the other pharmacy or meet in the middle with the cost. You are giving your pharmacy a chance to retain you as a loyal client. You may be in a location where there are no competitive pharmacies. Medications, especially now with electronic prescriptions, are easily filled and mailed to you from outside your local area. You will have to factor in postage costs; however, if your doctor allows you to receive multiple supplies and your medications are suitable, postal mail order is an option. Medications that cannot be supplied in this manner include any drugs of dependence or refrigerated items. If you live rurally, think about getting your medications when you go to the nearest larger town to shop. The current government made a campaign promise to cut the maximum price of medications to $30 as opposed to the current cap of $42.50. This promise was fulfilled in October’s Federal Budget and the $30 cap will be introduced in January 2023. These savings will be of great benefit to people who are taking some of the newer diabetes medications and insulins.