We May Know How Much a Pharmacy Prescription Vape Will Cost You

An image showing a man vaping to illustrate the cost of pharmacy vapes in Australia

We may finally have some idea of how much a prescription vape from a pharmacy will cost.

At the end of April this year, the government made the announcement that it would be overhauling the laws around the use of vaping devices. The plan is to heavily restrict access to the products in an effort to clamp down on the use of vapes among young people.

The new rules, which may not come into practice for months, state that vapes will only be allowed to be purchased with a prescription from a pharmacy.

This closes the personal importation rules allowing people who vape to import their own products, something the government hopes will stem the supply of illicit vapes to the black market.

While the outline of the plan has been announced, it is currently light on details. One of the big questions people who vape are anxious to have answered is exactly how much they might have to pay for a prescribed vape.

One Twitter user, JamesR, believes he may have found the answer to this question. Posting a screenshot from a pharmaceuticals website, the price for a single vape and 12 1.5ml pods, stated as a month’s supply, comes in at $244.95.

As the Twitter user states, this is not a confirmed price but it may give a ballpark figure for how much pharmacy vaping devices will cost.

Currently, a black-market disposable vape retails for around $30-$40 and users may get one to two weeks of use out of it, depending on the size of the vape and their vaping habits.

For people who use re-fillable, customisable vapes, these devices can start at anywhere from $10, all the way up to a few hundred dollars, with nicotine-containing juice costing around $30 for a 30ml bottle. Again, this could last weeks or even months, depending on usage.

The screenshot posted is taken from the website BurstHealth, a Telehealth GP clinic dispensing medications online. Their products seem expensive by comparison with other, mainstream pharmacies.

For example, it offers 12 100mg tablets of the popular erectile dysfunction medication Viagra for $90. The same pills will cost you $30 at Chemist Warehouse.

If this example gives us an indication of a trend, it suggests that the vapes it is selling could be much higher in price than what pharmacies end up selling them for.

Currently, there are no vaping products that have been approved by the Australian medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, on the Australian market. It’s unclear whether products will have to be approved by the TGA when the new rules come into play, but the Health Minister has said that pharmacy vapes will have to meet minimum safety and standards requirements.

It’s possible that no vaping products will become approved by the TGA, given that this is a lengthy process and that the government is keen to roll out the changes as soon as possible. If that is the case, only those vapes that meet whatever standards are set by the TGA will be allowed to be sold in pharmacies and could be accessed under the Special Access Scheme C pathway or a new pathway the TGA sets up that doesn’t require the approval of individual devices.

There is good reason to believe that the vaping devices noted above will become the Australian pharmacy standard. That product, the Nicovape, is manufactured by Liber Pharmaceuticals. It is the only vaping product currently stocked by national wholesalers and major pharmacy brands.

Both Chemist Warehouse and the pharmaceuticals lobby group The Strategic Council, headed by former Coalition Health Minister Michael Wooldridge, have a stake in Liber who is set to cash in once the new rules come into play. That will very much become the case if 18ml of vape juice commands a price tag of $244.95.

Online, people who vape are outraged at the prospective costs, with many saying that they will be turning to the black market if pharmacies set prices this high.

Neither the TGA nor the Health Department has a say in how medicines are sold if they are not covered under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Speaking to The Latch, a spokesperson for the TGA said that “Pharmaceutical companies make their own decisions on the price charged for products supplied in the private market”.

However, they also added that some pharmaceutical companies will choose to supply a product at a reduced cost under a ‘compassionate access scheme’, although the government again has no control over this.

They did not comment on whether the prices indicated above are a figure they would expect pharmacies to charge but they noted that cheaper products are already available.

“We are aware that it is possible to buy, from a pharmacy, a reusable vaping device for around $40 and a cartridge that can last 14 days for approximately $20,” the spokesperson said.

With the government confident that its new rules will bring smoking rates down, it’s paramount they treat this issue with care to avoid sending people who vape back to cigarettes.

Related: The Great Australian Vape Ban Is Here — Let’s Unpack the Deets

Related: The Gov Has Declared War on Mango Ice With New Vape Laws

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