Switching to generic medicines

You may have missed it, but in this year’s budget the Australian Government announced plans to change the prescribing software used by doctors to write scripts so that the default script is for the active ingredient, or generic term, of a drug rather than the brand name. The aim is to increase the use of generic drugs in Australia.

Currently only 19.5 per cent of scripts written by GPs use the generic term, compared with 83 per cent in the UK. Increasing the use of generic drugs will provide significant savings to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) budget. Minister for Health Greg Hunt has said that savings to the PBS would be reinvested in the health budget.

There are a number of commonly used breast cancer drugs that are available as generics, including hormone therapy drugs. This may mean your doctor talks to you about using a generic version of these drugs – for example ‘tamoxifen’ instead of ‘Nolvadex’, ‘anastrozole’ instead of ‘Arimidex’ or ‘letrozole’ instead of ‘Femara’. The doctor can still write a script for the brand name if preferred.

If you are happy to use generic drugs, you may like to consider supporting the For Benefit Medicines (FBM) model. FBM is Australia’s first not-for-profit pharmaceutical company. It distributes 100 per cent of its profits to patient support and medical research in Australia, rather than to shareholders.

FBM distributes two breast cancer drugs – Anastrozole FBM and Letrozole FBM. Under an agreement between BCNA and FBM, 50 per cent of all profits from the sale of these two drugs is donated to BCNA.

The remaining 50 per cent is donated to Breast Cancer Institute of Australia to fund research into breast cancer treatments and a cure.

If you are interested in supporting this model, you can talk to your doctor or pharmacist. More information is available on our website.

Issue 80
Spring 2017