NSW pharmacists given special authority

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Special authority for emergency supply without a prescription in bushfire-affected areas has been issued by the NSW Chief Health Officer

A temporary special authority has been issued for supply of prescription medicines from community pharmacies in emergencies in bushfire-affected areas in NSW. 

The usual arrangements for three-day supply and continued dispensing provisions remain in place in all areas of NSW.

However special authority for emergency supply without a prescription in bushfire-affected areas is now available until 31 March 2020.

Under the authority a patient can now receive a supply of Schedule 4 medication without a prescription, where the pharmacist is satisfied there is immediate need.

The medicine must have been previously prescribed, be for continuation of current essential treatment and it is impracticable to obtain a prescription.

The quantity to be supplied is no more than:

  • For substances that are on the PBS, the standard Pharmaceutical Benefits maximum quantity, or
  • For substances that are not on the PBS, the quantity that is contained in the smallest standard pack in which substance is generally available.

In most cases, this represents a months’ supply of that medicine.

See here for further requirements

NSW Branch President of the Pharmacy Guild, David Heffernan, thanked the NSW Minister for Health and the NSW Department of Health for approving these arrangements which will allow pharmacists to be of greater assistance to patients in bushfire affected areas.

“This is a great first step towards permanently expanding and streamlining the capacity of pharmacists all over Australia to assist patients with their prescription medicines in and after natural disasters,” said Mr Heffernan.

PSA NSW Branch President Peter Carroll said: “The current bushfires across NSW have resulted in unprecedented demand on pharmacists working in multiple settings, especially in community pharmacy.

“This announcement means that people separated from their prescription medicines or prescriptions will be able to access their regular medicines needed for managing chronic health conditions, such as blood pressure, depression, diabetes, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“We thank the NSW Ministry of Health for responding to this urgent need and issuing this special authority which is vital to ensure NSW residents affected by bushfires can continue access to medicines vital for their health,” said Prof Carroll.

Under the special authority, a pharmacist may also dispense S4D and S8 medicine using telephone or email orders in an emergency.

The pharmacist can confirm the patient’s current medication details with the prescriber, or a prescriber may direct a pharmacist to supply a medicine to a patient in an emergency situation, by providing a telephone order, email or facsimile.

The prescriber must forward a paper prescription to the pharmacy as soon as practicable and within 24 hours, endorsed as such.

Furthermore the TGA has granted permission for pharmacies to advertise that people with asthma or COPD can obtain salbutamol puffers or dry powder inhalers from a particular pharmacy, and with or without prescription if necessary.

This special permissions lasts until 30 April 2020 and also extends to salbutamol advertising activities conducted or facilitated by evacuation centres and other places dealing with displaced people.

P2 Masks are expected to arrive in pharmacies in NSW affected by bushfires in the next two days.

The Pharmacy Guild has asked pharmacies to provide these free P2 masks to community members within bushfire-affected areas.

Guild national president George Tambassis this week thanked pharmacists, pharmacy staff, Guild branches and wholesalers who he said have “worked together to solve seemingly insurmountable hurdles” to get medicines to patients.

“We have seen urgent medicine supplies delivered by boat, air ambulance, naval vessels, military helicopters, private vehicles under police escort and jet skis where necessary,” said Mr Tambassis.

“I am proud to hear the many stories emerging of pharmacies and their staff going above and beyond to help people and maintain front-line services.”

PSA has signalled that it is pushing for the Victorian government to make similar emergency provisions. 

For more information see the NSW Health website.

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