Active Ingredient Prescribing

Page last updated: 22 July 2021

The goal of Active Ingredient Prescribing is to help people understand what medicines they are taking. Under new medicine regulations, doctors must include the active ingredient names when preparing prescriptions for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation PBS (RPBS) medicines. This will mean most medicines will be prescribed by their active ingredient, not the brand name.

Activities to Support Consistent and Standardised Medicines Information

Active Ingredient Prescribing is part of a wider government initiative to ensure consistent and standardised medicines information, to support safe and appropriate use of medicines.

Consumers’ ability to identify a medicine’s active ingredient is critical for medicine safety. Confusion surrounding the active ingredients in medicines poses significant risk to consumers. Research indicates that many consumers only know their medicines by their brand name, and can easily take multiple doses if they are prescribed two different brands of medicine containing the same active ingredient. This risk is increased for elderly or chronically ill patients who often take a number of medicines.

What is an Active Ingredient?

Active ingredients are the chemical compounds in medicines that have an effect in the body. Essentially, these are the chemicals in the medicine that make it work. The introduction of Active Ingredient Prescribing will mean these active ingredients are easier to identify on prescriptions.

When will Active Ingredient Prescribing begin?

The Department of Health has changed legislation to require the inclusion of active ingredients on all PBS and RPBS prescriptions, except for:

  • Handwritten prescriptions;
  • Paper based medication charts in the residential aged care sector;
  • Medicinal items with four or more active ingredients; and
  • Other items excluded for safety or practicality reasons.

The new legislative requirements for PBS prescriptions are mandatory from 1 February 2021. From this date, all eligible PBS and RPBS prescriptions will need to include the active ingredient, followed by brand if the prescriber believes it is clinically necessary. Consumers will start to notice active ingredient information on their PBS and RPBS prescriptions over the coming months.

Benefits of Active Ingredient Prescribing

  • Consumers being able to identify their medicine’s active ingredients reduces the risk of people taking multiple doses of medicines because they accidentally take different brands with the same active ingredient.
  • Consumers will be better informed about the medicines they are taking.
  • The changes are also likely to increase the uptake of generic and biosimilar medicines, leading to the reduction of out-of-pocket expenses for the consumer.
  • Active ingredient information will now appear on prescriptions, medicines packaging, pharmacy dispensing labels and in My Health Record Shared Summaries.
  • Prescribers can still prescribe a brand of medicine if they believe it is clinically necessary and can include brand names on prescriptions along with the active ingredient.
  • Consumers will still be able to choose the brand they want when they get their medicines from their pharmacy.

 Additional Information