PharmCIS Frequently Asked Questions

Page last updated: 28 March 2012


What is PharmCIS and what will it do?

PharmCIS (Pharmaceutical Consolidated Information System) is an integrated technology based system that will support approval and listing of medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and PBS price determinations. It will manage data and information associated with evaluating and listing a drug on the PBS and publication information. It provides PBS data to the Department of Human Services, software vendors and the public through the Monthly Publishing System (MPS) and the website.

Why is it being introduced?

PharmCIS is designed to:

  • improve the efficiency of submission processing by consolidating existing systems and processes into a single authoritative source of information about the PBS;
  • improve the consistency and accuracy of price changes in the PBS;
  • support consistent decision making via more readily available information;
  • support activity monitoring statistics as agreed with the Pharmaceutical Industry;
  • improve the specification and management of restrictions by increasing clarity for prescribers and dispensers and introducing machine encoding;
  • support e-health initiatives including the introduction of the Australian Medicines Terminology – an important step toward the implementation of Electronic Transfer of Prescriptions and e-Health more broadly; and
  • modernise the Department’s infrastructure to support future initiatives.

When will it be implemented?

The timeframe for the implementation of PharmCIS is currently being planned and will be communicated once agreed.

Why will it take two months for PharmCIS to produce the first Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule?

Changes to the PBS are prepared two months in advance. The complexity of the changes from multiple systems to a single new system will take some time.

Will I still be able to get PBS subsidised medicines during the PharmCIS transition period?

Yes, the relevant current PBS Schedule will remain in force until the PBS is published through PharmCIS, when normal monthly schedules will resume.

Will anything be different about how the schedule is organised?

Yes. The published schedule, which contains item codes, will use descriptions of medicines from the Australian Medicines Terminology, a national standard set by the National e-Health Transition Authority. Each item code will generally be organised to represent a unique pack size for a particular form and strength of a medicine.

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Who will have access to the system?

Only approved Department staff will have access to PharmCIS. PharmCIS will have security controls that will allow only specifically approved Department staff to access sensitive information.

Pharmaceutical Industry

How will PharmCIS affect me?

The details of the transition period will be communicated once agreed.

What if I want to make a submission to PBAC during the transition period?

The timing of submissions to PBAC during the change over period will be unaffected and continue as normal.

What if I want to list or amend an item on the Schedule during this period?

The deadlines for the Department to receive listing information will be unaffected. If this changes, stakeholders will be notified.

Submission deadlines can be found on the PBS website.

Will the new Australian Medicines Terminology (AMT) format affect the legal interpretation of key decisions like statutory price reductions?

No. There will be no substantive changes to the existing formats used in the legislative instruments that are the basis for current decision making.

Will I be able to make on-line submissions?

Not at present. The new system is secure and only accessible by specifically approved Departmental staff. On-line submissions may be introduced in the future.

Software Vendors

How will PharmCIS affect me?

The details of the transition period will be communicated once agreed.

How will data formats be changed?

Data formats will be changed to the agreed PBS XML formats. The schemas can be downloaded from

Why is PharmCIS not being delivered in October 2011, as originally planned?

Because PharmCIS has many stakeholders a shift in the implementation date has been necessary to ensure that all downstream data users are ready to accept the new data formats.

How will testing of PBSXML be conducted?

Updates to the approach to testing will be available at

Dispensers and Prescribers

How will PharmCIS affect me?

The implementation of PharmCIS will see all medicines used in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS) will be described in the Schedule using the new national standard - the Australian Medicines Terminology.

This new way of describing medicines will not have any impact on medicines approved for subsidy on the PBS or the conditions under which they are subsidised.

What are the benefits of the new way of describing medicines?

The new terminology supports e-Health initiatives by using a standard design to underpin electronic records that are highly accurate and unambiguous.

Will claiming be affected?

The introduction of Australian Medicines Terminology will not affect Government subsidies for medicines listed on the PBS.

There will be some adjustments to maximum quantities on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule but these changes will not affect the amount of medicines that can currently be prescribed or supplied.

During the transition to Australian Medicines Terminology, maximum quantities will generally be given in two formats – a maximum number of packs and maximum number of the dosage form units in the pack (e.g. the number of pills).

There will be some changes to item codes to give more information about what can be prescribed and supplied.

Will restrictions be changed?

No. The intent of restrictions will remain unchanged. However, the meaning and requirements associated with restrictions to item codes will be progressively re-formatted to be more easily understood by both prescribers and dispensers.

Will my prescribing or dispensing software be changed?

The Department is working closely with software vendors to ensure that these improvements are made as seamlessly as possible.


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