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Published on Mar 13, 2024 
Authored by Pfizer Communications Team

How a Stronger PBS can help improve access to medicines for Australians.

The Australian Government subsidises the cost of medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The PBS allows Australians to access medicines without having to pay the full price. For an overview of the PBS and what this means for Australians, watch the video below from the Australian Government Department of Health:  

Australians with a Medicare card can access more than 5,200 essential medicines without paying full price. Almost all Australians will benefit from medicines provided through the PBS in their lifetime. Nearly two in three people are taking at least one PBS medicine.1

Innovative medicines and new technologies are continually being developed. However, even after they have been deemed safe and effective by regulatory agencies, it can take more than a year for safe and effective medicines to be listed on the PBS. Australians often wait three to four times longer to access medicines when compared to residents of other countries, where new medicines are available to the community in as little as 90 days.2

But there is room for improvement to make sure patients can access new medicines faster. The collaboration between the medicines industry and Government to help address the impact of COVID-19 demonstrated a shared commitment to make medicines and vaccines available to patients quickly.

A similar commitment is needed to help Australians gain timely access to innovative treatments for diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Having timely access to medicines means that patients will have better health outcomes, return to work sooner and enjoy an improved quality of life. It can also mean less pressure on primary care (including GPs, pharmacists and other allied health professionals), as well as specialists and hospitals, ensuring that our healthcare system can meet the demands of a growing and ageing population.3  

This is an important time for the medicines industry. The system that evaluates new medicines is called Australia’s Health Technology Assessment (HTA). The HTA system allows for medicines to be subsidised and significant review of the HTA has not been assessed in more than 30 years4; however, there is currently an opportunity to modernise this scheme.

"When my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, genetic testing meant she qualified for a drug trial. That drug is now available for treatment of other cancers, but wouldn't it be great if cancer patients could get access to new treatments more quickly?"Robyn
Image and quote source: Medicines Australia, Stronger PBS Campaign

Why the PBS is important – here are some success stories:

  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) – Australia funded the first medicine for Spinal Muscular Atrophy in 2019. 

  • Hepatitis C – Australia was the first country to introduce government-funded new treatment for Hepatitis C.

  • Cervical Cancer – Australia was the first country to fund a nationwide human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program since 2007.

  • Cystic Fibrosis – Children aged 6 to 11 with cystic fibrosis were able to access a new medicine via the PBS since 2023.

To learn more about these success stories, visit:
A Stronger PBS will help Australia adopt a more a more patient-centred approach to the availability of medicines. 

The Stronger PBS Campaign is developed by Medicines Australia, and supported by Pfizer Australia.

"New medicines mean new hope, and Australians should never have to wait for hope"Quote from Bill, who is living with Pulmonary Fibrosis
Image and quote source: Medicines Australia, Stronger PBS Campaign 

How can I learn more about the Stronger PBS Campaign and the value of the PBS?


  1. Who is eligible for the PBS. Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Accessed 24 Feb 2024. 
  2. What are the current patient fees and charges? Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Accessed 24 Feb 2024.
  3. Phuong, JM,, The impacts of medication shortages on patient outcomes: A scoping review. 2019. Accessed 13 Mar 2024.
  4. Successes of the PBS. Stronger PBS. Accessed 06 Mar 2024.  
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