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Senior Australians and Prescription Medicines

One of the many challenges that the ageing of Australia’s population presents is the accessibility of prescription medicines to older Australians. Over time, in part due to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, there has been an expectation in society that prescription medicines can be accessed by people irrespective of their income. 

This National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre report, entitled Senior Australians and Prescription Medicines: Usage, Sources of Information and Affordability, explores a range of topics related with pharmaceuticals based on a survey of over 3,000 members of National Seniors Australia aged 50 years and over.

The issues covered include usage of prescription medicines, associated affordability issues, the actions people take to cope with financial strain from prescription medicine costs, and awareness of and attitudes to health issues. 

The report finds that there is a proportion of older Australians that struggle to afford prescribed medicines, in particular people aged 50-64 years, earning low incomes and with poorer health.

A worrying conclusion is that those who can least afford to go without prescription medicines are those most likely to face financial strain. Those facing cost pressures often adopt strategies to cope, such as seeking cheaper alternatives, rationing or delaying their prescription, or simply not taking their prescribed medicines. Such responses could have adverse health implications for these older Australians.

Another interesting revelation is the range of information sources senior Australians use for treatment and medicines. One clear finding from this report is that affordability of prescription medicines is a major political and social issue for older Australians, which is likely to grow even more important as the population continues to age.

Download the full report below.

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