Tough economic times may be hitting the government in the pocket in many ways - but not when it comes to spending on prescription drugs.

Health minister Tony Ryall has revealed spending on pharmaceuticals increased by $180 million over the past three years.

Last year, three million people were prescribed more than 40 million subsidised treatments, a 16 per cent increase from 2008.

Ryall says the additional funding has not only resulted in wider access to currently subsidised medications, but the availability of 67 new medications.

The $180 million medical bill is part of the government's extra $1.5 billion spend on the public health service over its first term.