Patients now waiting for the detail of Medicare reform package

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Health minister Mark Butler has confirmed that next week's 2023-24 Budget will include a measure to reform the Opiate Dependence Treatment Program.

On Friday, Mr Butler announced several measures he described as "laying the foundations for significant reforms to Medicare."

According to a summary of the measures announced by Mr Butler, "The PBS Opioid Dependence Treatment program will broaden access to treatments in community pharmacies from 1 July 2023.

"This will give patients looking to end their dependence on opioids another option to access treatment outside GP clinics and hospitals that are already under immense pressure."

The reform is expected to ensure patients are no longer denied the protection of PBS co-payments and the safety net.

However, the announcement has raised some concern, given around 80 per cent of treatment for opiate dependence is already accessed through community pharmacies, outside GP clinics and hospitals.

The states and territories have gradually reduced the number of patients accessing treatment via their programs, shifting more to the community pharmacy setting.

Under the current Opiate Dependence Treatment Program, community pharmacies are not remunerated for dispensing these PBS-listed medicines. Pharmacies participating in the program must charge patients 'private administration fees to recoup the cost of dispensing the medicines.