separator

Fitness and body

How to buy PrEP – even if you can’t afford it

PrEP — the HIV prevention strategy that seems to be on everybody’s lips right now. An estimated 17,000+ people in Australia are already using it… But even though it’s now on the PBS, what can you do if you can’t afford PrEP? We uncover all of the options whether you have access to Medicare or not.

In case you didn’t know, PrEP (which stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a program which combines regular sexual health testing with using prescription medicine to protect you against HIV. PrEP allows you to take control of your own health and offers highly effective protection around the clock, no matter what happens.

Since April 1, 2018, PrEP is available as a subsidised medicine through Australia’s publicly funded, national healthcare system.

About the PBS

PBS stands for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It’s a list of all medicines that can be dispensed in pharmacies at a federal Government-subsidised price — which is handy because many medicines cost a lot more than the price you pay at the pharmacy. When a medicine is listed on the PBS, you can expect to pay no more than a maximum set price each and every time you need to buy it — and this now includes PrEP!

The maximum set price you pay for prescription medicines is called a patient co-payment. Having a maximum set price helps make medicines affordable to everyone who needs them. But the catch is, you need to be an Australian resident who holds a current Medicare card to be eligible.

“Even if you don’t have Medicare, affordable options for buying PrEP are still available.”

Although PrEP is listed as a PBS medicine, there may be some situations where a GP provides a prescription for PrEP that’s not valid on the PBS. This could be because someone doesn’t have access to Medicare, or they are being prescribed PrEP even though they don’t meet the eligibility criteria laid out in the national clinical guidelines. But rest assured, the guidelines are inclusive enough for prescribers to make sure people can still access PrEP if they want it.

About Medicare

Medicare is operated by the Australian Government Department of Human Services as the country’s primary funder of healthcare. Medicare is available to all Australian citizens and permanent residents.

Having access to Medicare means you can claim some or all of the appointment costs when you see a doctor. It also means you’re eligible to get PrEP on the PBS — and that means you can expect to pay the same subsidised amount for PrEP no matter which local pharmacy you buy it from wherever you happen to be in Australia.

What if I don’t have access to Medicare?

Some overseas visitors can still access PrEP on the PBS. This is made possible by Australia’s reciprocal healthcare agreements with the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Malta, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Belgium and Slovenia. If you’ve been a resident of any of these countries, visit the Department of Human Services website to check your eligibility and find out how you can enrol in Medicare.

For other overseas visitors, having private insurance may help cover the cost of seeing a doctor, paying for tests or even buying PrEP. Not all insurance policies are the same so it’s best to check with your insurance provider to find out what they will and won’t cover. Starting a conversation with a doctor is a great way to find out which kind of services and medicines you might be expected to pay for and how much they’ll cost.

“If PrEP is still unaffordable to you, you can apply for free PrEP through a purchase assistance scheme.”

Even if you don’t have Medicare, affordable options for buying PrEP are still available. Buying PrEP online for personal importation starts from around $20 per month, including delivery. If PrEP is still unaffordable to you, you can apply for free PrEP through a Purchase Assistance Scheme.

How much is PrEP?

The price of PrEP can vary based upon your circumstances. These include whether you have access to Medicare, whether your prescription is valid for the PBS, whether you have a PBS concession, where you choose to buy it and other factors. If any price presents a challenge, there are Purchase Assistance Schemes for anyone who cannot afford PrEP.

A valid prescription is always required to buy PrEP in a local pharmacy, or from an online pharmacy for personal import.

PrEP on the PBS purchased from any Australian pharmacy

  • $39.50 for a 30 day supply for general patients, or
  • $6.40 for a 30 day supply for concession card holders

Some pharmacies may offer a dollar discount on PBS medicines.

People who buy other medicines on the PBS may be eligible to get PrEP cheaper or for free through the PBS Safety Net Scheme.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may be eligible to get PrEP cheaper or for free through the Closing the Gap Scheme.

It is possible to buy PrEP from any local pharmacy off the PBS with a private prescription. However, this is likely to cost upwards from around $680 for one month’s supply. Buying PrEP from an online pharmacy could be a much more affordable alternative.

PrEP purchased from an online pharmacy for personal import

  • Starting from around $20.00 (including delivery) for a 30 day supply
  • Free (including delivery) for a full three months’ (90 day) supply through a Purchase Assistance Scheme

How can I buy PrEP online?

Whether you do or don’t have access to Medicare, the TGA’s Personal Importation Scheme permits anyone with a valid prescription to import PrEP for personal use. The scheme permits you to import up to three months’ supply at a time and no more than 15 months’ supply during any 12 month period.

Using the scheme is easy. Simply choose an online pharmacy, upload your prescription, pay for your order and wait for your PrEP to arrive. Delivery usually takes between one and two weeks to arrive. Prices start from around $20 per month, including delivery straight to your door.

Check out How to buy PrEP online for personal importation for details of suggested online pharmacies and guidance on choosing the right medicines.

Can I get a PBS concession?

Some people may be eligible to get PrEP on the PBS cheaper or for free by having a valid concession card. This includes the Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Health Care Card and DVA Health Cards.

For full details and conditions, check out the PBS website.

What if I’m already paying for other prescription medicines? (PBS Safety Net)

If you have to buy other PBS medicines, the Australian Government includes a scheme to help you get your medicines cheaper or for free if you’ve already spent a certain amount of money throughout the year. This is called the PBS Safety Net threshold.

Once you spend enough during each calendar year to reach the Safety Net threshold, you’ll pay less for any PBS medicines you need to buy from then on until December 31. Your pharmacist can help track the amount you’ve spent on PBS medicines so you know when you’re approaching the threshold.

The PBS Safety Net threshold resets on January 1 each year. For 2018, the spending thresholds are $1,521.80 for general patients or $384.00 for concession card holders. Once you’ve spent enough to qualify for the Safety Net during the year, instead of paying the usual PBS co-payment fee, you’ll pay less for each item:

  • $6.40 for a 30 day supply for general patients, or
  • Free for a 30 day supply for concession card holders

What if I’m an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian? (Closing the Gap Scheme)

The PBS Closing the Gap Scheme is made available by the Australian Government to reduce the cost of PBS medicines for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with, or at risk of, chronic disease — which includes HIV.

Not all doctors can prescribe medicines under the Closing the Gap Scheme, so it’s best to ask if your doctor is able to do so.

Once your doctor has marked your prescription for the Closing the Gap Scheme, you can buy PrEP from any local pharmacy. For each 30 days supply of PrEP, the cost will be:

  • $6.40 for a 30 day supply for general patients, or
  • Free for a 30 day supply for concession card holders

What if I still can’t afford PrEP? (Purchase Assistance Schemes)

For anyone who cannot afford to buy PrEP on the PBS or from an online pharmacy, help is at hand. Purchase Assistance Schemes have been created to help cover the cost of PrEP, although these schemes do not cover the cost of seeing a doctor or paying for pathology tests.

If you are in a situation where you cannot afford to buy PrEP for any reason, you can contact the following organisations for assistance:

Successful applicants will be provided with a coupon to access a full three months’ supply for free, including delivery. A valid prescription is always required.

Latest News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *