Many Australian adults cannot afford to fill prescriptions, with rates as high as 13 per cent in some parts of the country.
The situation is worst in the Darling Downs and West Moreton (DDWM) Primary Health Network, according to new health survey data released on Thursday.
The first analysis of its kind from the National Health Performance Authority reveals 13 per cent of adults in the DDWM health network in south-east Queensland could not afford to fill their prescriptions in 2013-14.
Brisbane had relatively high rates of people who could not afford their prescriptions – 10 per cent for Brisbane North and 12 per cent for Brisbane South PHNs.
Those figures reveal a disparity across Australia, with rates as low as four per cent in other places.
Half of the worst-affected places in Australia are in Queensland.
Pharmacies are important for delivering healthcare to Australians, so if Australians were not filling their prescriptions, their conditions could not be properly managed, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia acting national president Michelle Lynch said.
If people could not afford to access medicines prescribed to them, then Australia’s hospitals and wider health system would be put under greater strain, Ms Lynch said.
She said pharmacies were important in ensuring Australians could seek treatment and maintain good health.
“Pharmacies are on the front line to help people navigate that pathway,” Ms Lynch said.
“If [Australians] are not having the medicine they require, we’re not best managing [their conditions].”
Ms Lynch said the majority of prescriptions were covered under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
The pharmaceutical benefits scheme includes a co-payment, which patients contribute towards the costs of their medicine.
Between 2005 and 2015, the co-payment has increased from $3.80 to $6.10 for concession card holders and from $23.70 to $37.70 in 2015, in line with inflation.
There is evidence to suggest essential services, like healthcare, are rising at faster rates than inflation.
The Queensland Council of Social Service’s Cost of Living Report (LINK) focused on six areas across Queensland, including Brisbane, which has some of the highest rates for people not affording their prescriptions.
While the prices of discretionary items like clothes and appliances fell in Brisbane in those five years, the costs of electricity, rent and healthcare rose.
The Australian Medical Association and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s Queensland branch declined to comment.