3.15 Access to prescription medicines

This measure reports on the use of pharmaceuticals and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme by Indigenous Australians.

Why is it important?

This measure reports on: expenditure on pharmaceuticals, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and reasons Indigenous Australians might not access prescription medicines. Essential medicines save lives and improve health when they are available, affordable and quality‑assured, and properly used. Affordable access to medicines is for many acute and chronic illnesses. For chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and renal failure, multiple medications might be required for many years to avoid complications (WHO 2004). It is important to ensure that Indigenous Australians, who experience high rates of acute and chronic illnesses, are able to access appropriate prescription medications when required (AHMAC 2017).

Related measures

Data sources

  • Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey
  • Health Expenditure Database


  • AHMAC 2017. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 report. Canberra: AHMAC.
  • WHO (World Health Organization) 2004. WHO policy perspectives on medicines. Geneva: WHO.