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Price Information Code of Practice

September 2006

1. Interpretation

  1. In this Code, unless the contrary intention appears, terms have the same meaning as in the Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 and Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Regulations, as in force from time to time.
  2. Explanatory Note: As it is intended that the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 be replaced by the trans-Tasman legislation for the Joint Therapeutic Products Agency, some terms used in this Code will need to be amended to reflect these new regulatory arrangements.

  1. Explanatory Notes are provided to assist compliance with the Code.
  2. In this Code:

    medicine means a product, or a substance or a preparation containing products, included in Schedule 3 (other than substances in Appendix H), Schedule 4 or Schedule 8 of the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons;

    Explanatory note: this definition includes the therapeutic devices included in those schedules, and medicines available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS). Most medicines available on prescription are subsidised under the PBS or RPBS. This subsidy is received when the prescription is filled.

    price information means information about:

    1. the total purchase price of medicines that is to be paid by consumers of those medicines; and
    2. in relation to medicines that are subsidised under the Australian Government's PBS (or RPBS), the price paid by the consumer when the prescription is filled.

    sponsor, in relation to therapeutic goods, means:

    1. a person who exports, or arranges for the exportation of, the goods from Australia; or
    2. a person who imports, or arranges the importation of, the goods into Australia; or
    3. a person who, in Australia, manufactures the products, or arranges for another person to manufacture the goods, for supply (whether in Australia or elsewhere); but does not include a person who:
    4. exports, imports or manufactures the goods; or
    5. arranges the exportation, importation or manufacture of the goods;

    on behalf of another person who, at the time of the exportation, importation, manufacture or arrangements, is a resident of, or is carrying on business in, Australia;

    SUSDP means the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons published by the Commonwealth under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, that is, the document known as the 'current Poisons Standard' under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989;

    total purchase price means:

    1. the total cost to the consumer and includes pharmacy mark-up, additional fee and allowable extra fee if applied by the pharmacist; and
    2. in relation to PBS and RPBS prescriptions, also includes any brand or therapeutic premium which must be paid by the consumer.

2. Purpose

The purpose of this Code is:

  1. to set out the conditions under which information about the price of prescription medicines and certain pharmacist only medicines may be provided to the general public; and
  2. to provide a mechanism by which such information, consistent with the National Medicines Policy1 and in particular the Quality Use of Medicines Principles, can be provided that will enable consumers to take into account the price of a medicine when deciding where to obtain their medicine.

1 Commonwealth of Australia, 1999, available on the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing website

3. Application

  1. Subject to subclauses (3) and (6), this Code applies to all price information directed to consumers of products, or a substance or a preparation containing products, included in Schedule 3 (other than substances in Appendix H), Schedule 4 or Schedule 8 of the SUSDP.

    Explanatory note: Except as provided in clause 11.3 and 11.4, this Code does not regulate the provision of price information for medicines that are permitted to be advertised, such as over-the-counter medicines in Schedule 2 of the SUSDP, medicines in Schedule 3 that are in Appendix H of the SUSDP, or medicines that are exempt from scheduling.

  2. Price information may only be provided for medicines that are included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

    Explanatory note: This is to ensure that price information may only be provided for those medicines that are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

  3. Price information may not be provided for medicines that are included in Schedule A to the Code.

    Explanatory note: This requirement provides for exclusion of certain substances on public health and safety grounds.

  4. This Code does not apply to price information directed exclusively to health professionals.
  5. In subclause (4), 'health professionals' includes medical practitioners, psychologists, dentists, veterinary surgeons, pharmacists, physiotherapists, dietitians, scientists working in medical laboratories or nurses; or persons who are engaged in the business of wholesaling therapeutic goods; or purchasing officers in hospitals; or herbalists, homeopathic practitioners, chiropractors, naturopaths, nutritionists, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, podiatrists or osteopaths registered under a law of a State or Territory.

    Explanatory note: Advertising of prescription medicines to health professionals is exempted from the prohibition on such advertising under Commonwealth, State and Territory legislation.

  6. Price information may not be provided for PBS medicines supplied through alternative arrangements under Section 100 of the National Health Act 1953, other than dispensing fees for buprenorphine hydrochloride and methadone hydrochloride.

    Explanatory note: These medicines are supplied through specific arrangements for special needs access or specialised drugs and include Highly Specialised Drugs. Price information on dispensing fees for buprenorphine hydrochloride and methadone hydrochloride should be available in support of the treatment of opiate dependence.

4. Who may provide price information

  1. Price information may only be provided by retail pharmacists, agents acting on behalf of pharmacists including pharmacy marketing groups, or dispensing doctors.
  2. Price information may not be provided by manufacturers, distributors or sponsors of medicines, other than pharmacy marketing groups as per subclause (1).

    Explanatory Note: This is consistent with the purpose of this Code of providing price information for consumers to consider when purchasing their medicine. It also prevents manufacturers or sponsors from providing price information about their range of medicines in isolation, which could be considered promotional. Pharmacy marketing groups, who are also sponsors of products, are permitted to provide price information on behalf of nominated pharmacists.

5. Responsibility for compliance with this code

Those persons whose name and contact details accompany price information are responsible for ensuring that the price information complies with this Code.

Explanatory notes:

  1. See clause 10 below. Persons who distribute price information are not responsible for its compliance with this Code unless they are also the suppliers of the price information. For example, doctors or pharmacists who provide patients or customers with price information pamphlets that identify other suppliers of the medicines referred to in that information are not responsible for ensuring that the information complies with this Code. Those identified in the information as the suppliers of the medicine are responsible for compliance.
  2. Where a pharmacy marketing group prepares and arranges for the publication of price information on behalf of a group of pharmacists, the pharmacists identified in the price information will be responsible for its compliance with the Code.

6. Methods for provision of price information

Price information to which this Code applies may be provided by any method except:

  1. transmission using radio or television, or
  2. displays, including posters:
    1. in shopping malls (except inside individual shops);
    2. in or on public transport; and
    3. on billboards.

Explanatory Notes:

  1. Methods by which price information may be provided include newspapers, magazines, leaflets, and the Internet.
  2. Suppliers are not precluded from generally advertising their services and indicating that price lists are available on request, provided that the advertisement does not mention particular prescription medicines or classes of medicine, or the substances that they contain.

7. General requirement prohibiting promotion

  1. Price information, and any information accompanying price information, cannot promote the sale or use of a medicine referred to in the price information.
  1. A medicine referred to in price information shall be taken to be promoted if it is presented or described in a way that gives it prominence over and above any other medicine, whether or not that medicine is also referred to in the price information being provided.

Explanatory Notes:

  1. This requirement is designed to prevent promotion or indirect sponsorship by a manufacturer/sponsor of its range of medicines or of a single medicine.
  2. Set out in the box below are examples of the promotion of the sale or use of a medicine that would contravene clause 7. Some examples are of the promotional presentation or description by price information, and others are of information accompanying price information (eg examples (d) and (g)).
  1. Description

    Using terms such as the following to describe a medicine:

    1. adjectives such as 'new' or 'improved' to describe characteristics of the medicine; or
    2. adjectives such as 'small', 'large' or 'jumbo' to describe the pack size; or
    3. terms indicating the predicted length of supply, such as 'one month's supply' or 'thirty normal doses'.
  2. Pack price

    Using terms that promote the purchase of particular quantities or multiple packs, such as 'two for one', or 'save on the 100 tablet pack' or that indicate that the price of the medicine is particularly cheap eg 'now only'.

  3. Text type

    Providing the name, description or price of a medicine in text that is bolded, italicized, of a different colour, font or size, or in any other way distinguished, from the remainder of the price information text.

  4. Promotional initiatives

    Offering rewards or bonus points, or including price information in any catalogue or other document that promotes rewards or bonus points.

  5. Price comparisons

    Presenting the price information in a way that allows for the promotion of price comparisons, particularly between:

    1. normal price and 'members' price, and/or
    2. other retail pharmacy outlets,

    for example by statements such as 'we are the cheapest' or 'we will not be beaten on price'.

  6. Graphics

    Using a border, colour or some other means of distinction, to highlight a medicine, or a range of medicine.

  7. Duration of offer

    Using terms such as 'today only' or 'this week only' to describe the time period during which medicines referred to in the price information can be obtained at the price referred to in the information. Only the term 'price/s valid until' is acceptable.

8. Price information to include a sufficient number of products

  1. Price information must include a sufficient number of medicines, from three or more sponsors, so that no promotional emphasis is given to any medicine referred to in the price information.
  2. Where a pharmacy marketing group publishes price information which includes both a PBS subsidised medicine with a brand premium or therapeutic group premium and their own generic product, that information must include at least one other bench-mark price brand of that medicine in addition to their own product (where such products exist).

Explanatory note: This requirement is intended to prevent any misleading implication that the pharmacy marketing group's product is the only bench-mark price product.

9. Description of medicines

  1. Medicines must be described in price information using:
    1. the brand name of the medicine; or
    2. if there is no brand name, the name of the sponsor of the medicine and the names of the active ingredients of the medicine as they appear on the Australian Approved Names List for Therapeutic Substances.

    Explanatory note: The two options for describing medicines by brand name or sponsor's name are provided because some medicines (eg some generic medicines) may not have a brand name, but all medicines on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods will have a sponsor. The names of the active ingredients of the medicine will need to be provided where the medicine is described by the name of its sponsor. This does not preclude also describing branded medicines using the names of active ingredients.

  2. Price information must include the strength of the active ingredients as they appear on the label of the medicine if there is more than one strength; and
    1. the form in which the medicine is presented (eg tablets, capsules which must be included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods); and
    2. the pack size - only sponsors pack size is permitted; and
    3. the price - prices for multiple packs are not permitted.
  3. The need for a prescription for a particular medicine may also be indicated.
  4. Medicines subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme must be identified and the total purchase price must be specified as the general or concessional price.
  5. Price lists which include a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme subsidised medicine must include an indication that the price is subsidised by the Australian Government, and only applies when prescribed for the medical conditions listed in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Schedule for that medicine.
  6. Explanatory Note: Some products on the PBS are only available on restricted benefit at the subsidised price for the treatment of certain medical conditions.

10. Information to accompany price information

Price information must be accompanied by the names and contact details of the retail suppliers from whom the medicine referred to in that price information may be obtained at the listed price.

The contact details referred to in subclause (1) may only be provided with the agreement of the person to whom they refer.

11. Presentation of price information

  1. Format

    Price information must be provided in a legible and consistent format.

  2. Alphabetical order

    Medicines must be listed in alphabetical order using their brand name, or names of their active ingredients. Medicines must be set out in alphabetical order in each list according to only one of these classifications. More than one alphabetical list may be provided at the same time.

    Explanatory note: The Galbally Report recommended that sponsors not be able to place price information. To allow a price list of medicines in order by sponsor name would circumvent that recommendation.

  3. Inclusion of non-prescription medicines

    Medicines that are un-scheduled or that are included in Schedule 2 or Appendix H of Schedule 3 of the SUSDP, may be included in price information together with medicine to which this Code applies provided they are described and presented in a way that complies with clauses 7, 10, 11 and 12 of this Code.

  4. Medicine grouping

    1. Subject to subclause (2), medicines may be grouped according to the Schedule in the SUSDP in which they are included, provided that:
      1. there are a sufficient number of medicines from each Schedule in each grouping so that no promotional emphasis is given to any one product; and
      2. there are medicines from three or more sponsors included in the price information.
    2. The following medicines may be grouped according to indication, provided that no grouping includes any medicines to which this Code applies:
      1. unscheduled medicines;
      2. medicines that are included in Schedule 2; and
      3. substances in Appendix H of Schedule 3.

12. Information that may not accompany price information

  1. Indications

    A medicine referred to in price information cannot be accompanied by, or be located in proximity to, the giving, implying, or referring to other sources of, information regarding approved or unapproved indications, diseases, conditions, ailments or defects so that a reasonable person could infer that the medicine will cure or alleviate those diseases, conditions, etc.

  2. Illustrations

    1. Price information of medicines cannot be accompanied by, or be located near, pictures, photographs or illustrations of any of the medicines to which this Code applies.
    2. Explanatory note: Set out in the box below are examples of the location of pictures, photographs or illustrations that would contravene paragraph 12.2(1).

      1. a picture of a medicine listed in price information (eg of a pill, bottle or pack) that is in the same catalogue put out by a group of pharmacists as the price information list.
      2. a photograph of a medicine listed in price information in a newspaper that is on the adjacent page or the next page following the list.
      3. a price  information  list  located  within  a  'background  collage'  of  illustrations  of medicines to which this Code applies.
    3. Subclause (1) does not preclude price information from being accompanied by pictures or graphics in relation to medicines to which this Code does not apply where those pictures or graphics:
      1. comply with all the relevant legislative requirements; and
      2. are not positioned so that it is implied/ imply that they are pictures of the medicines included in the price information or that they relate to those medicines.
  3. Other sources of information

    1. Price information cannot be accompanied by, or located in proximity to, an article, editorial, testimonial or other similar material covering any of the medicines referred to in the price information, or substances included in those medicines, so that a reasonable person could infer that a particular medicine in the range of medicines referred to in the price information is being promoted over any other medicine.
    2. Price information cannot be accompanied by any reference to other sources of information on the medicines, or substances included in the medicines, that are referred to in the price information.
  4. Complaints

    Publication of a price list which includes prescription medicines and certain pharmacist only medicines which does not comply with this Code will be considered to be an advertisement for those therapeutic goods. Complaints will therefore be dealt with through the usual complaint processes for advertising of medicines. Any person may submit a written complaint about price lists thought to be in breach of this Code with the Complaints Resolution Panel for advertisements published or broadcast in Australia.

    Explanatory Note: Under the proposed model for a trans-Tasman regulatory scheme for advertising of therapeutic products developed by the Interim Advertising Council, complaints would be handled by a Central Complaints Panel in Australia.

    Schedule A - Price  Information  may  not  be  provided  for  the  following  substances,  or  preparations containing those substances:

    (Explanatory Note: this list is currently blank and is to be developed in consultation with stakeholders)