More mental health prescriptions dispensed—but government spending falls due to lower costs

While more subsidised mental health-related prescriptions are being dispensed in Australia, government spending on these medications has fallen, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Mental health services—in brief 2016, shows that $753 million was spent by the Federal Government on mental health-related subsidised prescriptions under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS)—accounting for about 8% of all PBS/RPBS subsidies.

AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard said that after adjusting for inflation, spending on subsidised mental health-related prescriptions fell on average by 1.4% per year between 2009–10 and 2013–14.

'Despite this, more prescriptions were dispensed—rising by an average of 2.6% per year over the five years from 2010–11,' Mr Beard said.

'This was largely due to the decreased cost of many subsidised medications.'

In total, there were 35 million prescriptions dispensed to 3.9 million patients during 2014–15.

'Antidepressant medication was the most frequently dispensed medication, accounting for about 68% (or 24 million) of mental health-related prescriptions dispensed,' Mr Beard said.

The rate of prescriptions was highest in Inner regional areas, at 1,934 prescriptions per 1,000 people. It was lowest in Very remote areas, at 436 prescriptions per 1,000 people.

'Among the states and territories, Tasmania had the highest rate of prescriptions, at 1,942 per 1,000 people. The lowest rate of prescriptions was 738 per 1,000 people in the Northern Territory,' Mr Beard said.

Today's report also shows that overall, an estimated $8 billion was spent on mental health-related services in Australia during 2013–14—equivalent to $344 per person. This included $2.1 billion on public hospital services for admitted patients and $1.9 billion for community mental health care.

The report is accompanied by other updates to information on the Mental Health Services in Australia website, including emergency departments, community and residential care, hospitalisations and GP activity.


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