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Letter to the Editor
Editor, – One issue not mentioned by Michael Ortiz in his editorial on prescription copayments (Aust Prescr2013;36:2-3) is the weekly fee paid by people on the Opioid Substitution Program for their methadone or buprenorphine. This program is intended for people who have an opioid addiction. The medicine itself is fully funded by government, but the pharmacy charges a dispensing fee of around $35 per week to compensate for the time and diligence required to dispense the medicine and monitor compliance.
This fee is not offset by the safety net and is about $1800 per year. No other sector of the community is required to pay this much for medicines. It is cheaper than a heroin habit, but the savings to government and the community are huge in terms of policing illegal drugs, crime reduction, court and imprisonment costs, and hepatitis C rates and treatment.
As a prescriber in the program, I see first-hand the benefits for all opioid addictions including the abuse of prescription opioids. These people can now lead reasonably normal lives and contribute to their community.
The case for generous government reimbursement of the pharmacist dispensing fee is compelling.
Tony Balint GP
Blue Horizon Clinic
Yarra Junction, Vic.