Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)

PBS Safety Net means that after you’ve spent above a certain amount on PBS scripts, any remaining scripts for that calendar year are reduced (for general patients) or free (for concession card holders – pension/senior/health care/DVA).  A pharmacist can provide the necessary forms to register for PBS Safety Net.

Families can combine their expenditure to reach the PBS thresholds – though there are many different options for doing so, as outlined in these pages:

PBS medicines are subsidised by the Australian government.  Where two or more brands of the same medicine are listed under the PBS, the Australian government subsidises each brand up to the same amount – but the supplier may request a surcharge, which is called a brand surcharge.  If you choose the more expensive brand, that price difference (brand surcharge) does not count towards your PBS Safety Net.

There are also rules for how many repeats per prescription are covered by the PBS.  You can browse by the A-Z listing by generic name only, but the PBS Medicine Search box will accept either generic or brand name.

If your doctor writes a prescription exceeding the allowed number of repeats for that medicine, it is considered a private prescription, and is not subsidised by the PBS.  Pharmacists can dispense the medicine and the permitted number of repeats under the PBS, and cancel the remaining repeats, upon request.

Prescriptions that are not covered by the PBS are called private prescriptions, which are not subsidised at all, nor are they included in PBS Safety Net calculations.  Pharmacies may charge different prices for non-PBS medicines, so shop around to find the best price.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration classifies medicines in a scheduling system, where Schedules 2 and 3 are often called “over-the-counter” medicines, and Schedule 4 can only be purchased with a prescription, and includes most items on the PBS.  Some compounded medicines (eg liquid melatonin) are not covered by the PBS, but can be subsidised through some private health funds’ Extras cover – with a pharmacist’s signed receipt stating that the dispensed item is Schedule 4.

Many pharmacies have reward schemes available, and every little bit helps!

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