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Anti-inflammatory eye drops added to PBS for Indigenous patients

Prednefrin Forte eye drops can now be prescribed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for certain cases of severe eye inflammation.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) led a successful submission to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) to expand the drug’s listing on the PBS for treatment of post-operative eye-inflammation for patients who identify as Indigenous. The decision came into effect on 1 March.

Announcing the decision, NACCHO said the expanded listing will mean there is a greater range and better affordability of anti-inflammatory eye drops for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Prednefrin Forte (prednisolone and phenylephrine eye drops) is a medication used to treat eye inflammation and swelling that ophthalmologists often prescribe as first-line therapy after cataract surgery.

According to NACCHO, eye disease is more common in Indigenous people compared to other Australians. Eye health outcomes are poorer and cataracts are more prevalent.

It worked with a range of stakeholders on the PBAC submission, including Prednefrin Forte’s manufacturer Allergan.

Dr Dawn Casey, deputy CEO of NACCHO, said: “This successful collaboration with experts and industry is important to NACCHO as access to the right medication and the best medical treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, is our top priority. In order to close the gap in health rates and experiences, more actions like this in the right direction must be made.”

Prednefrin Forte also has advantageous properties and pack size when compared to other similar medicines, Casey added.

The treatment has been previously listed on the PBS for uveitis and corneal grafts. Prednisolone was among the top 10 PBS drugs by prescription count by optometrists in 2015, according to Optometry Australia.

Allergan managing director Ms Nathalie McNeil said it had been a pleasure for company to collaborate with NACCHO on the PBAC submission.

“We are excited about Prednefrin Forte’s contribution towards improved health outcomes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

Vision 2020 Australia CEO Judith Abbott added: “Improving access to timely, culturally sensitive and affordable eye health care is of vital importance. We welcome this change to current drug scheduling, which will enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access a broader and more affordable range of eye medications, when they are needed.”