Health Department agrees to six-month grace period

pharmacist double checking prescription

Leeway offered to pharmacy during transition to Active Ingredient Prescribing

Pharmacists are being urged to prepare for changes coming into effect from Monday 1 February 2021, which will see mandatory active ingredient listings on medicines, with some exceptions.

From this date, all eligible PBS and RPBS prescriptions will need to include the active ingredient, followed by brand if the prescriber believes it is clinically necessary, says the Department of Health.

The new regulations will not apply to:

  • Handwritten prescriptions;
  • Paper-based medication charts in the residential aged care sector;
  • Medicines with four or more active ingredients;
  • Medicines that have been excluded to protect patient safety or where it is impractical to prescribe the medicine by active ingredient; and
  • Prescriptions generated from prescribing software that utilises a free text function.

According to NPS MedicineWise, the PSA and the Pharmacy Guild, the Department of Health has agreed to provide a six-month grace period for pharmacy, ceasing 31 July 2021.

Within this period, if a pharmacy receives a prescription that does not meet active ingredient prescribing requirements, the pharmacist should contact the prescriber and request the prescription be re-issued.

If the prescriber is unable to issue a compliant prescription for any reason, the pharmacy may supply and claim for the medicine as normal under the PBS or RPBS without penalty.

From 1 August 2021, new prescriptions that do not meet active ingredient prescribing requirements cannot be dispensed as PBS prescriptions and will need to be reissued in alignment with active ingredient prescribing requirements, or dispensed as private prescriptions.

However, non-compliant prescriptions generated before 31st July 2021 but presented after the grace period will still be able to be supplied and claimed until their expiration.

The Pharmacy Guild said it will monitor the transition period and will seek an extension if required, to ensure minimal disruption of patient care.

PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman said while current pharmacy workflows or processes largely won’t change, pharmacists should continue talking with consumers about their medicines active ingredient names where possible.

“Pharmacists have an important role to play when it comes to explaining to patients why their prescriptions may look different,” said A/Prof Freeman.

“When these changes come into effect it is critical that pharmacy staff are prepared to have the necessary conversations with patients and continue to provide information about the brand options available to them.

“It may take some time for patients to get use to describing their medicines by the active ingredient names however in the longer term it will improve medication safety by reducing potential confusion of multiple brands of the same active ingredient.”

The Department of Health stated that it has been working with the clinical software industry to make appropriate changes to ensure prescribers are using software which generates prescriptions in accordance with the new requirements.

Read the new NPS MedicineWise fact sheet for pharmacists and find out more at NPS MedicineWise or on the PBS website.

The Guild is inviting pharmacists and consumers to report their experiences under the new system via

See our previous article on the topic here

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  1. Jim Tsaoucis

    WHY are we always expected to do more and more for LESS AND LESS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Philip Smith

    Another increase to workload!
    Burn out here we come!
    Or is this something that won’t be followed by the sausage factory pharmacies and not audited or punished?

  3. pagophilus

    The problem will be experienced most intensely with specialists, who, whilst excellent and extremely knowledgeable in their field, tend to also be lazy prescribers, and to be notoriously difficult to contact at times. And to ask them to reissue a prescription for a reason such as this won’t increase your popularity. We will become the whipping boys (girls) because of government regulation.

  4. Tim Hewitt

    This will be interesting.. while I see the apparent ‘logic’ behind this, it always seems to be the pharmacists who have to act as the ‘enforcer’ on behalf of the ‘authorities’.. we are the ones having to call up Doctors and say ‘you’ve done it wrong..’
    Apart form that, this is also asking a whole population to learn a new language full of often quite unpronounceable words they have never heard of, and to stop using the vernacular they have grown up with.. effectively unwinding a life time of ‘brand loyalty..’ and the habits of generations..
    On the other hand, maybe it’s back to the days when Prescriptions were written in a secret language that only the prescriber (supposedly) and dispenser could understand! Bring back latin!!

    A fascinating social experiment in forcing a change in the use of common words and language, if nothing else….
    I wonder if, one day, Pharmacies will have to stop ‘confusing’ the public with ‘brands’ and have to start calling themselves ”pharmacies’ (or Chemists!).. that would be a laugh!

    • Larentina Brown

      There are some countries where the pharmacy name, by law, must be composed of the “pharmacist first or last name” and the word “pharmacy”

  5. Jim Tsaoucis

    WHY are we always expected to do more and more for LESS AND LESS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Geoffrey Timbs

    As handwritten scripts are excluded, for nearly all scripts it will come down to the doctor’s software….. it seems they are being given 6 months grace to make sure they update. Pharmacies get no grace period but need to contact the prescriber and request a new script!
    In the age of electronic prescribing the Department can easily identify and assist the few surgeries unable to update their software at the end of 6 months. I can understand why the Department would prefer pharmacists to police this but it is inefficient and imposes extra unpaid obligations on pharmacists along with the risk that the workflow disruption could lead to stress and dispensing errors.
    I think the Pharmacy Guild should push for a 6 month grace period for pharmacies as well and then let the Department police it themselves with errant doctors.

    Another complication per the government website is that some authority scripts will still need to be prescribed by brand name adding another layer of complexity to ensure payment for high cost medications. No doubt the software will work but this should be the Department’s responsibility not pharmacy

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