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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