Price of patches dropped to beat smoking

nicotine patches THE cost of nicotine patches will be slashed for low-income earners as the Federal Government ramps up its efforts to get more Australians to kick their smoking habit.

A new life-saving drug will also be subsidised for the 73 Australians with a rare blood disorder after The Courier-Mail revealed their fight for funding.

It can be revealed today the cost of the vital drug will come down from about $500,000 a year to just $33.60 per script in a move patients say will save their lives.

The new additions will cost taxpayers $320 million, including subsidies for drugs to help men with prostate conditions and bone marrow disorders.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon will today announce the cost of quitting smoking will fall by as much as $155 for a treatment course from February, with concession card holders to pay just $5.40 for nicotine patches. But the Government has rejected a recommendation from its expert advisory body for the subsidy to be extended to all of Australia’s three million smokers.

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Smoking is a $6.3 billion drain on Queensland’s health system, with an estimated 3400 Queenslanders dying each year from tobacco-related illnesses, and another 34,000 admitted to hospital.

Concession card holders will have to visit their GP to access the treatment on prescription, and will be given the patches for 12 weeks, with the option for a further 24 weeks of treatment using anti-smoking drugs.

The Federal Government raised the tobacco tax in May, lifting the price of a packet of cigarettes by $2.16.

Sufferers of the rare blood disorder paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria were also rejoicing yesterday after the Government agreed to subsidise the life-saving drug Soliris.

“It’s cliched, but I just want to say thank you (to the Government) for giving me the gift of life this Christmas,” sufferer Jenny Sturrock, 29, said yesterday. The Courier-Mail revealed last month that sufferers had travelled to Canberra to lobby Prime Minister Julia Gillard for funding to help treat the condition, which puts patients at risk of developing a fatal clot and can cause severe stomach pain and crippling fatigue.

Ms Roxon said thousands of men would also benefit next year from the listing of the drug Dutasteride (Avodart) to treat benign prostate enlargement.

She said survival rates for 670 Australians with bone marrow disorders would also improve with the listing of the drug Azacitidine (Vidaza).


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