Reducing the Cost of Medications: the PBS Safety Net

What is the PBS Safety Net?

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) Safety Net is an Australian government program that helps reduces the cost of prescription medications for people who are taking multiple medications over the long term.

It does this by setting an amount each year (the PBS Safety Net threshold) and when someone (or a family) spends that amount on prescription medications, the price of medications are reduced, or are free, for the rest of the calendar year. See the table below.

  PBS rates for 2017

card holders

General patients

  PBS Safety Net threshold



  Cost before threshold is reached


Up to $38.80

  Cost after threshold is reached



How do I know when I have reached the threshold?

You will need to keep track of how much you, and your family, have spent on PBS medications.

  • If you use the same pharmacist they may be able to keep a computer record for you - 
  • ask them about combining the amounts for all eligible family members.
  • If you use multiple pharmacies ask them for a Prescription Record Form and use that to keep a record of how much you and your family have spent.

What is a PBS medication?
PBS medications include prescription medications that are subsidised through the PBS. Your doctor may give you a private prescription or prescribe medicine that isn’t listed or available on the PBS. Non-PBS prescriptions do not count towards your PBS Safety Net threshold. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure if a medication is on the PBS.

Who can combine their PBS medication amounts to reach the threshold?

  • A couple legally married or in a de facto relationship, with or without a dependent child* 
  • A single person with a dependent child*
    *a dependent child is aged under 16 or a full time student under 25

I am close to reaching the threshold

Once you get close to the threshold ask your pharmacist about a PBS Safety Net card. Once you have the card you can use it to reduce the price of your PBS medications for the rest of the year.

I have gone over the threshold can I get a refund?

If you have spent more than the threshold before you got your PBS Safety Net card you may be eligible for a refund. Find out more and apply for a refund.

More information