Medicines can range in price from around ten dollars to thousands of dollars per prescription. Paying upfront for the full cost of medicines would be completely unaffordable for most and would mean many Australians would miss out on essential and life saving medicines.

Fortunately, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is an Australian Government initiative that subsidises the cost of many prescription medicines that are dispensed by community pharmacies.

Most of us pay a co-payment of up to $37.70 ($38.30 from 1 January 2016) for our PBS medicines, and the Australian Government subsidises the remaining amount.

For people with a Pensioner Concession Card, a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card or a Health Care Card, PBS prescriptions are available at a lower co-payment of $6.10 ($6.20 from 1 January 2016).

And for people who need to take a lot of medicines, the PBS safety net further reduces the cost of PBS medicines after a threshold is reached.

Put simply, if you are an Australian resident with a Medicare card you can access subsidised medicines on the PBS.

Most PBS medicines are available to consumers for the same co-payment, in community pharmacies right across Australia. This means that whether you are in Sydney or Broome, Adelaide or Alice Springs, you can access the medicines you need, at a price you can afford.

Deciding what medicines should be on the PBS is complex and many factors are taken into account. A special PBS Advisory Committee considers many aspects including the price to the Government, whether there is another medicine already doing the same job, and if the benefit of the treatment justifies the cost.

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