RPBS Explanatory Notes

Page last updated: 25 October 2022


The Australian Repatriation System

  1. The Australian Repatriation system is based primarily on the principle of compensation to veterans and eligible dependants for injury or death related to war service. In certain cases, treatment is also provided for accepted injuries or conditions that are not service-related or have occurred as a result of other than war service.
  2. Through the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 the Department of Veterans' Affairs provides programs of compensation, income support and treatment for eligible veterans and their dependants. One of the defined benefits for eligible veterans is the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This range of medications and dressings is more comprehensive than is available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

RPBS prescribing provisions

  1. Unless otherwise stated, Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) prescriptions must conform with the requirements of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) prescriptions, as detailed in Section 1 – Explanatory Notes in the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits book. The prescriber shall ensure that a prescription contains the following details:
    • the category of benefit, i.e., RPBS, by placing a cross in the relevant box;
    • the patient's full name and address;
    • the prescription date;
    • the DVA file number of the patient as evidence of entitlement;
    • in the case of authority prescriptions, the Authority approval number or the four digit streamlined authority code;
    • the item, form, strength, quantity and directions;
    • the number of repeats, if applicable;
    • indicate when brand substitution is not permitted; and
    • the name, signature, the prescriber number and address of the prescriber.

Prior Approval Arrangements

  1. The prior approval of the Department is required to prescribe the following:
    • ‘Authority required’ items (excluding ‘Authority required (STREAMLINED)’ items) listed in either the PBS or RPBS Schedule;
    • increased quantities and/or repeats of items listed in either the PBS or RPBS Schedule;
    • items listed under section 100 of the National Health Act 1953; and
    • other items not listed in either Schedule (non-Schedule items).
  2. The above items are to be prescribed on the common PBS/RPBS authority prescription form in accordance with the directions stated in the Explanatory Notes in the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits (See also information regarding dental prescribing and prescribing by optometrists under the RPBS in these Notes.)
  3. All Authority required prescriptions and requests for non-Schedule items must receive prior approval from the Department. This can be achieved by either:
    • using the Department's national free call number 1800 552 580; or
    • by mailing the written authority prescription to the Veterans' Affairs Pharmaceutical Advisory Centre (VAPAC) at the reply paid address shown at the end of these RPBS Explanatory Notes.

Prior approval is not required from DVA to prescribe an Authority required (STREAMLINED) item (except where increased quantities and/or repeats are required). Instead the authority prescription form must include a four digit streamlined authority code.

  1. Some requests for prior approval (including some non-Schedule items) need to be considered in writing. In such cases a VAPAC pharmacist will advise the prescriber to submit a request in writing that provides the following information:
    • A current clinical report on the patient's condition (such as age, co-morbidities, renal, liver failure) and clinical reports including pathology, biochemistry, diagnostic and other investigations if appropriate.
    • Details of past and current therapy for the condition. Include details of PBS, RPBS and non-Schedule items utilised, and the results of those therapies.
    • Details of the proposed treatment regimen. Include intended dose and duration of treatment and objective measures of response.
    • When the proposed use of the item is outside the TGA-approved indications for use in Australia, provide copies of articles from peer reviewed publications supporting the proposed treatment.
    • For items without Australian marketing approval, a copy of the TGA Special Access Scheme approval to prescribe the drug.
  2. Requests for prior approval to prescribe a non-Schedule (PBS or RPBS) item that is of the same therapeutic class (ATC level 3) as an item that is listed on the Schedule, will not be approved unless unequivocal clinical evidence is presented to demonstrate that the requested item is essential for effective treatment of the nominated patient.
  3. A pharmacist should not supply an item prescribed on an RPBS Authority Prescription Form unless the form has been approved and stamped by VAPAC, or has been endorsed by the prescriber with a telephone Authority approval number provided by VAPAC. Services Australia will not accept RPBS Authority prescriptions that have not been approved by the Department of Veterans' Affairs for payment.

Palliative Care Drugs

  1. The following medications may be available, or made available in increased quantities or doses under prior approval arrangements for use only in the palliative care of terminal disease:
    For further information telephone VAPAC on 1800 552 580.
    • clonazepam
    • cyclizine
    • dexamethasone
    • disodium pamidronate
    • fentanyl
    • glycopyrrolate
    • hyoscine butylbromide
    • hyoscine hydrobromide
    • ketamine
    • midazolam
    • octreotide

Dental Prescribing

  1. Under Department of Veterans' Affairs arrangements, financial responsibility for pharmaceutical benefits prescribed by a Local Dental Officer (LDO) is limited to treatment to which holders of the following cards are entitled: Where possible the LDO shall prescribe in accordance with the provisions governing dental prescribing under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
    • a Gold Repatriation Health Card – For All Conditions; or
    • a White Repatriation Health Card – For Specific Conditions; or
    • an Orange Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Card.
  2. Prescriptions for PBS Dental Schedule items for Gold, White and Orange Card holders are to be dispensed at the PBS concessional rate. Claims for payment by the dispensing pharmacist are to be included with other Repatriation prescriptions. The card holder is required to meet the cost of any applicable brand premium.
  3. When a non-PBS Dental Schedule item is prescribed for an eligible card holder, the LDO's private prescription form should be used. The dispensing pharmacist may charge the patient the full cost of the prescription. The patient may claim a refund for the full cost of a non-Schedule item from the Department if an itemised receipt (not a cash register receipt) and a copy of the prescription are provided.

Prescribing by optometrists

  1. Optometrists approved as ‘PBS prescribers’ may write RPBS prescriptions as outlined in Section 1 for medicines listed in Section 2 of the PBS Schedule as pharmaceutical benefits for optometrical use.
  2. Medicines in the optometrist list include non-Authority and Authority required items.  Procedures for obtaining VAPAC approval to prescribe ‘Authority required’ optometrist items or increased quantities and/or repeats of optometrist items under the RPBS are the same as indicated under prior approval arrangements above.
  3. The list of medicines for prescribing by optometrists under the RPBS is the same as applies under the PBS. There are no optometrist listings in the RPBS Schedule for prescribing for veterans only. There is no provision for optometrist prescribers to request approval to prescribe items that are not included in the PBS optometrist list (non-Schedule items).
  4. Optometrist PBS/RPBS prescription forms are for use for prescribing non-Authority or Authority required optometrist items under the RPBS with one item per form only.    

Provisions governing pricing and payment for RPBS benefits


  1. Unless otherwise stated, the pricing and payment principles and arrangements for approved pharmacists supplying pharmaceutical benefits under the RPBS will be the same as those arrangements applying under the PBS.
  2. Where a pharmaceutical benefit that is not listed on the PBS or RPBS Schedule is dispensed on an RPBS Authority prescription, a pharmacist will price the benefit and enter the serial number, prescription identifying number and price on the sticker or stamp imprint affixed to the prescription.

Pricing of Schedule Items

  1. Items supplied under the RPBS from the PBS Schedule, both ready-prepared and extemporaneously-prepared, will be paid on the same basis as benefits supplied under the PBS. Items supplied under the RPBS from the Repatriation Schedule, including wound dressings, will be paid on the basis of the price as given in the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits section (Section 1 – RPBS Schedule, Drugs, Medicines and Dressings) of the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits.

Pricing of Non-Schedule Ready Prepared Items

  1. Non-Schedule ready-prepared items are to be priced on the basis of the invoiced, GST-exclusive wholesale price to pharmacists plus the appropriate PBS mark-up and the PBS dispensing fee. Where the item price to pharmacists is greater than $100.00, a copy of the invoice pertaining to the supply of that item is to be submitted together with the appropriate copy of the authority prescription as part of the claim for payment.

Pricing of Non-Schedule Extemporaneously Prepared Items

  1. When an ingredient drug is not listed in the PBS Drug Tariff, the recovery price will be based on the invoiced wholesale price to pharmacists, increased by a mark-up of 100%, calculated in accordance with the directions contained in the pricing instructions for pricing of PBS extemporaneously-prepared benefits in this Schedule. The price paid by the pharmacist for the commercial pack from which the ingredient is used shall be endorsed on the prescription form.

Miscellaneous Pricing Rules

  1. The price to pharmacists used as the basis of pricing will be the invoiced, GST-exclusive price from the wholesaler.
  2. If multiple quantities of a manufacturer's original pack are supplied, the PBS mark-up is applied to the price to pharmacist of each pack and then totalled. The PBS dispensing fee, and the PBS dangerous drug fee if applicable, are then added to the total of the marked-up prices.
  3. When the quantity prescribed corresponds with the quantity of a manufacturer's original pack, in no circumstances will the price payable for one pack exceed that payable for multiples or combinations of packs to supply the quantity prescribed.
  4. The list of ingredient drugs and prices included in the PBS Drug Tariff are common to both the PBS and RPBS. Certain restrictions apply regarding the prescribing and dispensing of some of these ingredient drugs as pharmaceutical benefits, e.g., use as additive only.
  5. For items prescribed generically, including non-Schedule and wound dressings, the pharmacist should indicate on the prescription the quantity and brand supplied. If prescriptions are not endorsed, the Department will pay the lowest priced acceptable product available.


Packaging Material, Postage or Freight

  1. Payment to a pharmacist for the costs of packaging materials, postage or freight required to supply a pharmaceutical benefit is to be paid by the patient, who may then claim reimbursement from the Department through the provision of a pharmacists itemised receipt.

Payment for Items Supplied at Short Intervals

  1. For all items dispensed at specific short intervals of time, the Department will pay a separate PBS dispensing fee for each occasion that the drug is supplied and which is acknowledged on receipt by the patient or agent.
  2. The price payable on the items supplied will be based on the individual dose quantity supplied. Where applicable, a PBS dangerous drug fee and a minimum container charge will be payable for each supply.

Receipts for Patient Charges

  1. Where a charge is paid by a patient in any of the circumstances of paragraphs 13 or 24, the pharmacist is required to provide a printed receipt to the patient with the details of the items or services provided, the amount paid, date of supply and the patients name and address. The patient may apply for reimbursement from the Department.

Special Patient Contributions

  1. The Special Patient Contribution for items listed as Special Pharmaceutical Benefits in the PBS Schedule is not payable by veterans entitled to pharmaceutical benefits under the RPBS. Eligible veterans receiving Special Pharmaceutical Benefits under the RPBS are required to pay only the concessional patient contribution and any applicable brand premium. If a Safety Net Entitlement card is held, the veteran should receive a Special Pharmaceutical Benefit free of charge, subject to any brand premium applicable. Services Australia will reimburse the dispensing pharmacist the total dispensed price, less the concessional patient contribution and/or brand premium if applicable.

Therapeutic Group Premiums — Authority Processing

  1. Items attracting a therapeutic group premium are dual listed. Dispensing pharmacists are therefore required to select the appropriate code for those items that are dual listed as authority and non-authority items, in order to correctly charge the patient and claim from Services Australia. Those authority prescriptions that grant exemption from a therapeutic group premium will have the letters 'TPX' at the beginning of the telephone Authority approval number, or, in the case of a written approval, will be stamped with the words "This prescription does not attract a therapeutic group premium".