Peter Dutton says a move to make medicines cheaper should be funded by the taxpayers and not pharmacies.
The Liberal leader is in fierce opposition to the reform that would allow doctors to issue prescriptions for 60-day supplies, up from 30 days, due to concerns about the impact on local pharmacies.
Speaking with the Today show on Friday, Mr Dutton suggested if the government wanted to move forward with the plan, it should fund it.
“If the government want to make medicines cheaper, which we support, it’s a measure that should be funded,” Mr Dutton said.
“At the moment the way the government structured it, the pharmacists will have to pick up that. I don’t think patients want that.
“If it’s possible to have a 60-day script, that’s good, less visits to the doctor so you can free up that service, everyone agrees with that, but it’s the pharmacists picking the cost up.”
The policy is due to come into effect on September 1 and would allow for six million Australians to get access to 60 days of medication from a single script at the same price.
But the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has warned that the policy would cause community pharmacies to close and put thousands of people out of work.
The government has said it will pass on the $1.2bn in savings from dispensing fees to community pharmacies.
Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said the Coalition had to make a choice between consumers and the powerful pharmacy lobby.
“Pharmacies are doing OK. This is about making medicines cheaper,” he told Nine.
“What you heard from Peter is where he always stands when it comes to cost of living issues and that is against the Australian consumer.”
It follows a dramatic day in the Senate on Thursday in which the government forced the Coalition’s hand on a disallowance motion.
The opposition had threatened to tear up the changes but after not securing the numbers it changed course and attempted to delay it.
But the government charged ahead and forced the vote anyway to put the matter to bed.
The opposition has left the door open to mounting another challenge when parliament returns in the first week of September.
Nationals senate leader Bridget McKenzie confirmed the Coalition had lodged a new disallowance motion on Thursday afternoon.
The opposition has another 14 sitting days to bring on the veto vote.