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Limited dispensing and supply of medicines
A reminder for health professionals and consumers on safe and equitable dispensing and supply
In March 2020, we published a statement with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the National Pharmaceutical Services Association asking pharmacists to limit dispensing and supply of medicines in response to a marked increase in demand at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Consumers should be aware that pharmacists may limit dispensing or supply of their medicine to one supply per patient to ensure safety and help fairly distribute medicines.
Health professionals at the pharmacies you visit want the best possible health outcomes for everyone. Please remember to be respectful if a pharmacist limits dispensing or supply of prescription and over-the-counter medicines to a single supply consistent with therapeutic need.
It is important that everyone is able to access medicines when they need them. As disruptions to medicine supply chains are ongoing, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia continue to ask pharmacists to limit dispensing and supply of important medicines to promote fair and equitable access for all consumers. Additionally, supplying multiple quantities of medicines does not align with the principles of Quality Use of Medicines and can impact patient safety.
We are asking pharmacists to limit supply and prevent stockpiling of medicines when supply is already at risk, or where interrupted supply could result in serious health consequences. These include:
- medicines listed on TGA's Medicine Shortage Reports Database
- alternatives to medicines reported to be in shortage or that have been discontinued
- medicines included in the statement from March 2020 where interrupted supply could result in serious health consequences
- any medicine where more than one supply could impact on patient safety.
Some medicines have legislated prescribing limits, for example, Salbutamol inhalers provided as a Pharmacist Only Medicine (Schedule 3) remain subject to controls, including confirmation of patient's symptoms. Consistent with the Poisons Standard Schedule 3 entry, only one inhaler is permitted to be supplied per patient. Patients seeking or requiring more than one inhaler should be referred to a doctor or nurse practitioner. Pharmacists are expected to label the primary pack and record supply (Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Guidance for provision of a Pharmacist Only medicine - Short-acting beta2-agonists (salbutamol and terbutaline), 2021).
Supply of quantities that is not clinically appropriate for an individual may be illegal under State and Territory law and contravene Pharmacy Board of Australia's Professional Practice guidelines.
Repeat prescriptions should be dispensed at a therapeutically appropriate interval. Dispensing of multiple Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) repeats is permitted only for valid Regulation 49 prescriptions, which must only be written by prescribers. Prescribers should be mindful that PBS Regulation 49 must be used sparingly and only in exceptional circumstances in accordance with the legislated criteria. If pharmacists have doubts about the appropriateness of particular Regulation 49 prescriptions, they should discuss this with the prescriber.