Australians can use a wide range of prescribed medicines without paying full price for them, thanks to the Australian Government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
What is the PBS?
The PBS is designed to provide safe, affordable medicines to all Australians.
You can browse the PBS online for:
- an A-Z of all subsidised medicines
- how you should use the medicines
- consumer information
- the cost to you, which will depend on whether you hold a concession card
Who is eligible for the PBS?
All Australian residents with a Medicare card are eligible for the PBS.
Overseas visitors from countries that have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia are also eligible. That means visitors from Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The cost of medicines on the PBS
Everybody has to pay something towards the cost of medicines. This is called the co-payment – it is the difference between the full cost of a medicine and the amount the government pays.
The current maximum co-payment is $39.50 in most cases for general patients and $6.40 for people with an eligible concession card. These fees change most years.
Eligible concession cards include:
- Pensioner Concession Card
- Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
- Health Care Card
- Department of Veterans Affairs White, Gold, or Orange Card
The PBS subsidises up to the price of the lowest priced brand. This means that you may have to pay extra for more expensive brands. This is known as a brand premium.
PBS safety net
The PBS has a safety net so that people who spend a lot of money on health care get more support. The safety net is based on the idea of a ‘family unit’, which could be an individual, a couple or a family.
If your family unit spends more than a certain amount on PBS medicines in a year, new PBS prescriptions become cheaper or free.
Looking for more medicine information?
healthdirect’s medicines section allows you to search for medicines by brand name or active ingredient. It provides useful information about medicines such as their use, whether they are available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and product recalls.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: March 2018