Rising prices under the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme have left low income groups struggling to pay for some medicines according to a study led by UWA researcher Anna Hynd.
The findings published in the June issue of Australia and New Zealand Journal of Public Health link asthma treatments, gastric acid and cholesterol lowering medications among the prescriptions affected since a 24 per cent rise in co-payments in 2005 and two subsequent changes.
The study was conducted as part of an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council funded project examining medicine and health service use in WA following the 2005 PBS co-payment increase.
Dr Hynd and her co-researchers including Associate Professor David Preen and Dr Max Bulsara from the UWA School of Population Health, found that in three of the four medicine categories examined, prescription counts were significantly lower following the increase in co-payment thresholds.
Dr Hynd said a previous study revealed that one in five Australian adults may be skipping doses or dispensing of medicines because of costs.
"Policy makers should be aware that increasing the cost of medicines to patients can affect their use, particularly among vulnerable groups."
The study suggests that the government strategy of increasing PBS co-payments could in fact represent a false saving.
"Higher co-payments reduce the cost burden to government but may have unintended negative effects if costs are generated elsewhere in the health system," she said.
The study concludes: "Evaluation of this impact should be a priority for the Australian health system."