The Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) welcomes the Albanese Government’s historic reforms aiming to strengthen Medicare and remove some barriers and costs tied to opioid dependence treatment (ODT). Announcements from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Health Minister Mark Butler show a new commitment to reduce costs of ODT that have, until now, placed an unreasonable financial burden on consumers.
In 2020, more than 53,000 people across Australia received treatment for dependence on licit and illicit opioid drugs such as heroin, morphine and oxycodone. ODT medications assist people with an opioid dependence to maintain employment and education, improve mental and physical health and reduce rates of criminal activity and imprisonment. But for many decades, the ODT program has been largely unregulated, with costs for accessing the medications ranging between states and territories, clinics and pharmacies. Despite the benefits to individuals and the community of these programs, people who access ODT programs have been subjected to unique forms of healthcare discrimination, without access to the same subsidies as Australian’s accessing other essential medicines.
Sarah Lord, Coordinator of Harm Reduction Victoria’s Pharmacotherapy Advocacy, Mediation & Support (PAMS) service, stated: “For too long people in our community have borne the costs of receiving these essential medicines. In some states, people on low-fixed incomes have had to pay more than $80 dollars per week and have gone without other essentials such as food so that they can continue working, going to school, and caring for their families.”
Changes to Medicare relating to ODT regulations in Australia has come after years of tireless advocacy from the community of people who use drugs. AIVL and the wider community of people who use drugs are pleased consumers have been heard in government consultations held throughout 2022.
Geoff Manu, AIVL’s Acting CEO suggested cautious optimism, stating: “The devil will be in the detail. Transitioning such a large program will require careful planning. It is critical that state and territory governments and local pharmacists share the Commonwealth’s commitment, ensuring all people in our community, including people in regional areas and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities, can easily access these medications.”
AIVL and our member organisations remain committed to continuing to hold our governments to account in the implementation of these planned changes. People who access ODT programs deserve not only the same subsidies as other Australians, but also have the right to easily accessible and non-stigmatising medication prescribing and dispensing across Australia.
For further information contact:
Sarah Lord – Coordinator of Harm Reduction Victoria’s Pharmacotherapy Advocacy, Mediation & Support (PAMS) service.
Phone: 04 51 217 452
Geoff Manu – AIVL Acting CEO
Phone: +61 490 972 267