3. Supplying Medicines — What Pharmacists Need to Know

Eligible suppliers

Pharmaceutical benefits are mainly supplied by approved pharmacists – pharmacists who comply with certain conditions. These pharmacists are approved to dispense pharmaceutical benefits from a particular pharmacy.

Other suppliers include approved doctors (usually practising in isolated areas), Friendly Society pharmacies, and approved hospitals. All suppliers are issued with approval numbers by the Department of Human Services. They should follow the procedures in these Explanatory Notes.

Unapproved pharmacists cannot supply pharmaceutical benefits.

Approval conditions for pharmacists

A pharmacist approved to supply medicines under the PBS:

  • can only supply benefits from the pharmacy that he/she is operating;
  • will not supply to anyone any pharmaceutical benefit that attracts a Commonwealth contribution for free, or for a price that is less than the relevant patient contribution;
  • will clearly advertise that any offer for free or cut-price medicines does not include pharmaceutical benefits which have a Commonwealth contribution;
  • will not pay rebates or refunds of patient contributions;
  • will publicly display a notice setting out the pharmacy's normal trading hours;
  • is obliged to supply pharmaceutical benefits at the pharmacy at any hour if a PBS prescription is marked 'urgent' and initialled by the prescriber;
  • will keep adequate stocks for the supply of pharmaceutical benefits;
  • may be called on by the Department of Human Services to provide details of stocks of pharmaceutical benefits or preparations for pharmaceutical benefits; and
  • must keep the duplicates of all old format PBS prescriptions, and the patient/pharmacist copies of all new format PBS prescriptions, with a Commonwealth contribution for at least one year from the date of supply. This includes PBS prescriptions ordering repeats when it is the final supply, and order forms for prescriber bag supplies. Please note that some State/Territory laws require these copies to be kept for longer periods.

 

Before supplying pharmaceutical benefits

Several steps must be taken before a pharmaceutical benefit is supplied.

Firstly, a pharmacist must endorse the PBS prescription and duplicate with his/her name and approved supplier number.

Secondly, a PBS prescription identifying number must be given to the PBS prescription item on both the PBS prescription and duplicate. Any recognised series of numbers may be used.

If more than one item is on a PBS prescription, a separate identifying number should be allocated to each item.

In the case of a repeat authorisation, the same PBS prescription identifying number(s) must be carried through for each item. A pharmacist must also allocate his/her own identifying number on the repeat authorisation. It must be written alongside the date and place of supply.

Supplying pharmaceutical benefits

Do's and Don'ts

Except in urgent cases (see details under '2. Prescribing Medicines ... Urgent cases'), pharmacists are authorised to supply pharmaceutical benefits only after they receive:

  • the pharmacist/patient and the Department of Human Services or DVA copies of a valid PBS prescription which is not more than 12 months old; or
  • the pharmacist/patient and the Department of Human Services or DVA copies of an approved authority PBS prescription or an authority to prescribe which is not more than 12 months old; or
  • a repeat authorisation attached to a patient/pharmacist PBS prescription not more than 12 months after the date of the original PBS prescription.

A pharmacist must not supply an Authority required (STREAMLINED) item unless the prescriber has written the four digit streamlined authority code on an authority PBS/RPBS prescription.

A pharmaceutical benefit cannot be supplied more times than specified in the PBS prescription.

A pharmacist cannot add to, delete from, or alter a PBS prescription in any other way. However, there may be circumstances where after contacting a prescriber, the pharmacist can clarify the prescriber's intentions and endorse the PBS prescription accordingly.

Once a pharmaceutical benefit has been supplied to a patient, it may not be supplied to that patient again:

  • on the same day or within the next 20 days, if it is a benefit (other than an eye preparation) that has five or more repeats allowed in the Schedule; or
  • on the same day or within the next four days (e.g., if a pharmaceutical benefit is supplied on a Monday, it cannot be supplied again to that patient until the next Saturday) in the case of other benefits.

Exceptions to this are:

  • when a PBS prescription is endorsed with the words 'Regulation 24' or 'hardship conditions apply' (see below under 'Regulation 24'); and
  • If a pharmacist believes a repeat supply is needed without delay for the treatment of the person, or a previous supply has been destroyed, lost or stolen. In this case, the pharmacist can provide another supply but must write ‘immediate supply necessary’ and sign the PBS prescription.

A pharmacist can supply an alternative pharmaceutical benefit without reference to the prescriber, provided that:

  • the PBS prescription does not indicate that only the pharmaceutical benefit prescribed is to be supplied (ie substitution is not permitted); and
  • the Schedule states that the prescribed benefit and the substitute benefits are equivalent; and
  • supply of the substitute benefit does not contravene relevant State/Territory law; and
  • the substitute benefit is a listed brand in the Schedule.

Pharmacists must heed State/Territory laws when supplying drugs listed as narcotic, specified or restricted in legislation of the particular State or Territory.

What to do if the Schedule changes

If an item or brand is deleted from the Schedule, it cannot be supplied as a pharmaceutical benefit from the date the deletion takes effect – regardless of whether the PBS prescription was written before this date. This includes repeat authorisations. (Special conditions applying to RPBS prescriptions are detailed in the RPBS Explanatory Notes.)

However, if restrictions on the prescribing of a pharmaceutical benefit change, or the maximum quantity or number of repeats is altered in the Schedule, valid PBS prescriptions written before the date of effect of the change may still be supplied as pharmaceutical benefits, under the conditions applying at the date of prescribing.

Suspected forgery

Pharmacists should take all reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that all items on a PBS prescription were written by a medical practitioner, a dentist, an optometrist, a midwife or a nurse practitioner.

Regulation 24

This regulation allows pharmacists to supply a pharmaceutical benefit and all of its repeats at the one time.

The PBS prescription must be endorsed by the medical practitioner, midwife or nurse practitioner with the words 'Regulation 24' if it is an item under the PBS, or 'hardship conditions apply' if it is being supplied under the RPBS. (For more information see under `2. Prescribing Medicines ... Regulation 24'). Regulation 24 does not apply for supply of pharmaceutical benefits on optometrist prescriptions.

Repeat authorisations

When a PBS prescription calls for repeat supplies, the pharmacist shall prepare a Repeat Authorisation Form, except when the PBS prescription is marked `Regulation 24'.

The repeat may be requested on a standard PBS prescription, an authority PBS prescription or an Authority to Prescribe Form, or on an earlier repeat authorisation. In the latter case, it must come with the duplicate PBS prescription, or in the new format, the "patient/pharmacist copy".

Preparing Repeat Authorisation Forms

A Repeat Authorisation Form must show:

  • the category of benefit (concession or general) – by placing a cross (x) in the relevant box;
  • the patient's name and full address;
  • in the case of repeats authorised on authority PBS prescriptions, the authority prescription number;
  • details of the original PBS prescription stating the item, form, strength, quantity and directions;
  • if substitution has occurred, the name of the brand actually supplied;
  • for the first supply, the pharmacy name, address and approval number, the date of the original PBS prescription and the allotted PBS prescription identifying number;
  • for subsequent supplies, the pharmacy approval number, and the date and PBS prescription number of the original prescription;
  • the number of times the item is to be repeated and the number of times it has been supplied;
  • the name and pharmacy approval number of the pharmacist issuing the repeat authorisation; and
  • the date of supply.

When a repeat authorisation is prepared for any further repeats or deferred supply, a pharmacist must attach the duplicate copy of an old format PBS prescription, or the patient/pharmacist copy of a new format PBS prescription, and give both to the patient at the time of supply.

Repeat authorisations for deferred supply

When a PBS prescription orders a number of pharmaceutical benefit items, but the patient does not need all of the items at the same time, a separate repeat authorisation for each deferred item must be prepared. The words 'original supply deferred' should be indicated across the relevant item on the original PBS prescription, its duplicate, and on the repeat authorisation.

Deferred items must not be claimed on the original PBS prescription.

The Repeat Authorisation Form when it is used for a deferred supply, is issued in the same way as normal repeat authorisations except that:

  • '0' is to be inserted in the space for 'no. of times already dispensed'; and
  • if no repeats are ordered, '0' is to be inserted in the space for 'no. of repeats authorised'.

Supplying a benefit on a deferred supply repeat authorisation is to be treated as if it is the first time of supply. If repeats are directed, the normal procedure for repeat authorisations applies. Details of the pharmacy at which the deferred supply was authorised are to be written onto subsequent repeat authorisations.

Authority PBS prescriptions

If a pharmacist is presented with an authority PBS prescription and is not sure if it has been approved, he or she should contact the Department of Human Services. Please note that the Department of Human Services will not provide clinical information.

If the authority PBS/RPBS prescription is for an Authority required (STREAMLINED) item the pharmacist should ensure that the prescriber has written the four digit streamlined authority code on the prescription, this enables the pharmacist to supply the item as a PBS benefit.

The pharmacist is required to include the four digit streamlined authority code on the claim for the PBS dispensing.

Urgent cases

In urgent cases and where State/Territory law allows, pharmacists can supply a pharmaceutical benefit to a person without a PBS prescription, provided details of the prescription are given by the prescriber via telephone or other means. The prescriber must then forward the written PBS prescription and duplicate to the pharmacist within seven days of the date of supply.

Where a pharmaceutical benefit needs prior approval from the Department of Human Services or the DVA, the prescriber must obtain approval and then advise the pharmacist of the PBS prescription and approval details. Only an original supply can be provided in this manner, not repeats.

Receipts

A person receiving a pharmaceutical benefit item must sign and date a receipt for it. If the person is not the patient, that person must also endorse the PBS prescription or repeat authorisation with his/her address. A receipt cannot be obtained until supply of the benefit has been made.

If a pharmaceutical benefit has to be sent through the post, by rail, or by other means, and a receipt is not practical, the pharmacist must certify on the PBS prescription or repeat authorisation that the benefit has been supplied, and write the date of supply and details of how it was sent. For example, if a pharmaceutical benefit is mailed to a patient on 1 April 2008, the pharmacist should write: "Certified supplied – mailed to patient 1 April 2008 (name of pharmacist) (signature of pharmacist) (date of certification)".

If an item is supplied in an urgent case, or to a person who cannot read or write, the pharmacist should sign and date a statement on the PBS prescription or repeat authorisation, stating the item has been supplied and the date on which it was supplied, and explaining why there is no receipt. For example, if a pharmaceutical benefit is supplied to a patient with a broken arm on 1 May 2008, the pharmacist should write: "Certified supplied 1 May 2008 – patient has a broken arm and is unable to sign (name of pharmacist) (signature of pharmacist) (date of certification)".

Only the pharmacist approved to supply pharmaceutical benefits can certify supply.

Prescriber bag supplies

Pharmacists may supply certain pharmaceutical benefit items free of charge to a PBS prescriber if they receive a prescriber bag order form in duplicate, signed by the prescriber. Only items listed under prescriber bag provisions for the relevant prescriber type can be supplied to the prescriber.

Pharmacists must be satisfied the form was completed by a PBS prescribers and includes the prescriber’s name and address. If a pharmacist does not know the prescriber, he/she should confirm the prescriber’s registration or PBS prescriber number and endorse this on the back of the form.

For more information see '2. Prescribing Medicines ... Prescriber bag supplies'.