Review of availability of medicines in rural areas

Monday, 29 July 2013

Do city and country people have the same levels of access to medicines and to pharmacists and the professional advice they provide? We know that in rural areas, less is spent per capita on PBS expenditure, and that pharmacists are thinner on the ground than in major cities.

The NRHA is currently writing a discussion paper, exploring these differences.

You can be involved! We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts.

Please send to with the subject header: NRHA medicines review; or make your comment below.


In cities large enough to have Teaching Hospitals, patients with complex/unusual conditions are frequently treated in specialty and subspecialty clinics. Specially medications that are not on the PBS are made available through the hospital system. In rural areas access to these clinics is limited and access to the medications is too. As an example, a person with a major life-threatening allergy, if they lived in the city, would be cared for at a specialty clinic and have access to the medication availability of the teaching hospital. The same patient in a rural environment, who cannot access the teaching hospital, is reliant on the GP. If the GP needs a non-PBS medication, they do not have access to the hospital and its clinics. How does the patient access the medication? Do they pay the high cost outside of the PBS? In some places there is what has been called a "compassionate" scheme where the local hospital will step in and provide these medications. Similar issues may commonly arise in cancer treatment where there is a more limited availability of clinical trials and non-PBS cancer treatments. As well, there are a range of other related issues. This can be compounded because of a large number of the large rural hospitals do not have specialist clinics and outpatient departments.

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