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People living in Australia's regional areas access cardiovascular disease (CVD) medicines at higher rates than people in major cities or remote areas, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Cardiovascular medicines and primary health care: a regional analysis, looked at the supply of medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS/RPBS) to different Australian regions.

The report also shows a different pattern in the case of lipid-lowering (cholesterol-lowering) drugs, with rates of supply highest in major cities.

'The reasons for these patterns are hard to identify- the relationships between cardiovascular disease, remoteness, seeing a doctor, and supply of CVD medicines are complex,' said John Woodall of the AIHW's Cardiovascular, Diabetes and Kidney Unit.

'One constant we found in our study was that GPs prescribe cardiovascular medicines in a similar pattern across Australia, whether they are based in major cities, regional or remote areas,' he said.

Generally higher rates of supply of CVD medicines in regional areas reflect the fact that cardiovascular health is poorer outside major cities, with higher rates of death and hospitalisation from cardiovascular disease.

But the report also shows that people in major cities were more likely to visit a GP for a CVD consultation despite having lower rates of CVD and CVD risk factors.

Indigenous Australians have significantly higher rates of CVD deaths and hospitalisations than other Australians.

In remote and very remote areas they rely heavily on sources of CVD medicines additional to the PBS/RPBS, with up to one-third of CVD medicines supplied by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Health Service.

'Indigenous Australians, who make up a high proportion of the population in remote and very remote areas, who attend a remote area Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Health Service, are able to get medicines from an on-site dispensary at the health service, without the need for a prescription form and without charge,' Mr Woodall said.

Over 70 million prescriptions for cardiovascular medicines were dispensed through the PBS/RPBS to 3.8 million Australians in 2007-08.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Further information: John Woodall, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1086, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.

Cardiovascular medicines and primary health care: a regional analysis.