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Scheduling news

16 April 2018

A new Scheduling Policy Framework (SPF) and Scheduling Handbook

Following extensive stakeholder, and in collaboration with State and Territory departments, the SPF has been redrafted as two documents - a policy document, the SPF, and a guidance document, the Scheduling Handbook.

The SPF contains the factors for each schedule and appendix, and the new version has been endorsed by the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council (AHMAC, the committee of heads of State, Territory and Commonwealth Health departments). The SPF remains an AHMAC document and any future changes will require AHMAC consideration and endorsement.

The Scheduling Handbook contains details of the scheduling process, including when and how matters are referred to the Advisory Committees, information on the public consultation process and guidance for applicants. The Handbook is a Department of Health document and will be maintained by the Scheduling Secretariat within the Health Products Regulation Group of the Department. Changes to the Handbook can be made without referral to AHMAC, but will be made in consultation with the Delegates, and/or the Advisory Committees for Medicines and/or Chemicals Scheduling There may also be a public consultation depending on the significance of the change.

Scheduling Working Group

A new "Scheduling Working Group" has been established comprising representatives from the states and territories, the medicines and chemical scheduling advisory committees, industry groups and professionals from the medicine, pharmacy and chemicals sectors as well as consumer representatives.

  • AHMAC has agreed that a new appendix in the Poisons Standard would be established to enable additional controls or requirements for Pharmacist-only medicines (Schedule 3 substances) to be specified, in particular those recently down-scheduled from Schedule 4 (Prescription only). The criteria to be covered in the new schedule needs to be considered by the Working Group, to provide advice to the Department.
  • The Working Group will develop a framework and guidelines for proactively identifying medicinal substances for consideration for rescheduling of Schedule 4 to Schedule 3 and/or 2, noting that it was agreed any such candidates would need to be considered in the usual manner through the usual committee and delegate processes following submission of an application for rescheduling.
  • In the immediate term, the Working Group will provide significant input on potential regulatory controls that may be appropriate for inclusion in legislation around advertising of Schedule 3 (Pharmacist-only) medicines (i.e. within the revised Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code).

The first meeting was held on 9 February 2018 and the following presentation was presented:
Medicines Scheduling and Scheduling Policy Ad Hoc Working Group - Meeting One, February 2018

The second meeting was held on 6 March 2018 and the following presentation was presented:
Medicines Scheduling and Scheduling Policy Ad Hoc Working Group - Meeting Two, March 2018

Interim decision consultation

Public consultation on the interim decisions will now be open to any interested party, and the time frame has been extended to up to 4 weeks, to allow more meaningful submissions to be prepared.

More delegate discretion for referral to the Advisory Committee(s)

The SPF and Handbook now provide the delegate with greater discretion for whether to refer a matter to the Advisory Committee or to make a decision directly.

In most cases, where consideration of a substance is straightforward and fits within the defined cut-offs, the delegate may choose to make a scheduling decision. Similarly, if a substance is a second-in-class, or similar to substances considered previously, the delegate may choose not to refer to the Advisory Committee.

Some of the Appendix considerations will now also be Delegate decisions, rather than referral to the Advisory Committee.

Processes have been developed to ensure stakeholders are kept informed of these decisions.

Other changes following the review

(Note: Further details can be found in the Scheduling Handbook)

  • Provision for a new appendix in the Poison Standard to enable additional controls or requirements for Pharmacist-only medicines (Schedule 3 substances) to be specified.
  • New process to ensure more timely market access to encourage submission of suitable applications for rescheduling of Schedule 4 medicines to Schedule 3 and/or Schedule 2.
  • Applications for chemicals scheduling consideration can be submitted directly to the Secretariat.
  • The applicant is now required to submit a summary for publication outlining the scheduling proposal, including the name of the substance, the proposed schedule, and a brief description addressing the relevant scheduling factors.
  • Guidance is included in the Scheduling Handbook for applicants to use a published risk:benefit model when preparing their submissions.
  • It was agreed to undertake a limited trial to assess the value of applicants presenting to the advisory committees. Further advice will be provided regarding the selection of presenters and the purpose of such presentations, as it would not be appropriate for the presenters to repeat material that is already in their submission nor for new issues to be raised in the presentation that had not been included in the submission.

Schedule 3 Advertising reforms

The default position regarding advertising of Schedule 3 substances has shifted to allow substances to be advertised unless the Scheduling Delegate determines they should not be. To allow substances in Schedule 3 to be advertised to the general public, a decision for each substance will still need to be made by the delegate for inclusion in Appendix H of the Poisons Standard on a case by case basis, regardless of whether they are old or new listings.

The SPF factors for Appendix H have been revised as follows:

Appendix H - Schedule 3 medicines permitted to be advertised

A new or amended entry to Appendix H may be made by the Secretary after taking into account matters set out in the Guidelines for advertising of substances included in Schedule 3 of the Poisons Standard (the Guideline).

Schedule 3 medicine substances will be included in Appendix H unless the Secretary determines there are reasons for not permitting the advertising of a particular substance. The Guideline sets out when substances cannot be advertised.

It is planned that the working group mentioned above will consider the substances currently in Schedule 3 but not in Appendix H for suitability for advertising, and provide advice to the scheduling delegate to inform his/her final decision.

This group will also provide input to the factors for determining suitability for advertising, which will be published in the new "Guidelines for advertising substances included in Schedule 3 of the Poisons Standard". They will also provide input to the mandatory requirements for advertisements for these substances which will be incorporated in the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code, which will undergo public consultation in early 2018.