Health Minister Sussan Ley believes consumers and the seriously sick will be the winners by banning over-the-counter drugs from the list of subsidised medicines.
The minister confirmed she is in talks with medical and consumer groups to end medicines like paracetamol, aspirin and antacids being on scripts.
“I don’t want to see over-the-counter medications on script at excessive cost to the government budget when it is not necessary,” she told reporters in Albury on Sunday.
She said the government is getting more and more requests for expensive, new generation cancer drugs and other medications it wants to be able to list on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The minister declined to put a figure on the savings, but reportedly this and other measures could be worth anywhere between $1 billion and $3 billion.
Labor is supportive of the move.
“It is very sensible to constantly review the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme,” Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King told ABC television.
Ms King also expressed some sympathy for her counterpart, who she said is having clean up the mess left behind by her predecessor Peter Dutton.
“Let’s hope it is not a horror budget for health and we get on track with improving primary care and the health system in this country,” she said.
Meanwhile, shadow treasurer Chris Bowen is heading a team of federal and state Labor MPs to Hong Kong and Beijing for talks with government officials and business people.
Last week Mr Bowen released Labor’s planned changes to the way superannuation is taxed, which it says will add around $14 billion to the budget bottom line.
Junior Minister Simon Birmingham described it as part of Labor’s “hotchpotch” of measures that simply increase taxes.
These also include Labor promises to bring back a carbon tax and a multinational tax policy that “arguably doesn’t work”.
“We are taking a comprehensive review of the tax system to inform a thoughtful position that we will be taking to the next election,” Senator Birmingham told Sky News.