Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs have again topped the list of the biggest subsidised drugs in Australia.
More than 20 million prescriptions for three different types of statins - atorvastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin - were filled under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, according to the annual list of the top 10 drugs in Australia in 2012-13.
The two most common types of statins cost taxpayers more than $715 million, including $416 million to subsidise atorvastatin, sold generically as well as by the brand name Lipitor, which has come off patent.
Confirmation of the continuing massive prescribing of statins comes only weeks after claims were made on ABC TV that many of the lipidlowering medicines were being taken unnecessarily, prompting outrage from heart experts.
Industry sources are predicting the 2013-14 PBS figures will show a drop in statin prescribing.
The PBS figures, published this week in the magazine Australian Prescriber, reveal proton pump inhibitors, which reduce gastric acid production, and ACE inhibitors which treat high blood pressure and heart failure, were among the most-prescribed items.