PBS Continued Dispensing Arrangements

Page last updated: 1 July 2022

Continued Dispensing is the supply of an eligible medicine to a person by an approved pharmacist, where there is an immediate need for the medicine but the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) prescriber is unable to be contacted and/or is unable to provide an electronic PBS prescription or owing prescription. Continued Dispensing enables community pharmacists to supply a single standard pack of an eligible medicine to a patient at the usual PBS price, under specific circumstances. The person must have previously been supplied the medicine on the basis of a PBS prescription, and the pharmacist may supply the medicine to the patient under Continued Dispensing arrangements once within a 12-month period.

From 1 July 2022, ongoing Continued Dispensing Arrangements have been expanded to include additional medicines groups to the statins and oral contraceptives, as recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) at its November 2021 meeting. The medicines recommended by the PBAC are predominantly for the management of chronic disease, such as asthma and other lung conditions, diabetes, and heart disease. The PBAC also endorsed the inclusion of medicines for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The Closing the Gap PBS Copayment Program (the CTG Program), which reduces or removes the PBS Copayment for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, will apply to medicines supplied under Continued Dispensing from 1 July 2022, where the medicines are eligible for supply under Continued Dispensing arrangements.

The Continued Dispensing Emergency Measure, initially put in place for the 2020 bushfire crisis and later extended to support the COVID-19 pandemic, concluded 30 June 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions

For Patients

What is Continued Dispensing?

Continued Dispensing is the supply of an eligible medicine to a person by an approved pharmacist, where there is an immediate need for the medicine but where the prescriber is unable to be contacted and/or is unable to provide an electronic PBS prescription or owing prescription. The supply of medicines under these arrangements is subject to a set of professional guidelines for pharmacists. Only one supply of medicines can be provided under Continued Dispensing in a 12-month period.

What should I do if I have run out of my PBS medicines and/or prescriptions and cannot see a doctor to obtain a new one?

If you are unable to see a medical practitioner face-to-face to obtain a prescription, you should check whether they can provide a telehealth appointment, and then send the script to you or your pharmacy electronically. If they cannot, you should talk to a community pharmacist about other options. This does not have to be your usual pharmacist, but they may need to contact your usual prescriber or pharmacist.

Do I have to see my doctor to get a follow-up prescription to give to the pharmacist under Continued Dispensing?

You do not need to obtain a follow-up prescription for medicines that are supplied under the Continued Dispensing arrangements. However, you will need to see a doctor to get a prescription for any future supplies of these medicines within a 12-month period.

What medicines can I get?

The medicines currently available under Continued Dispensing arrangements are predominantly for the management of chronic disease, such as asthma and other lung conditions, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. Oral contraceptives and medicines for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may also be supplied. See a list of all the medicines available under Continued Dispensing.

What will I have to pay for these medicines?

You will have to pay the relevant PBS/RPBS co-payment, depending on your concessional status. The PBS co-payment levels as at 1 January 2022 are $6.80 for concessional persons and up to $42.50 for general persons. If you have reached your PBS/RPBS safety net, your PBS/RPBS prescription cost will be reduced to the applicable PBS/RPBS co-payment rate.

Will these medicines count towards my PBS/RPBS Safety Net?

In most cases, these medicines will count towards your PBS/RPBS Safety Net.  However, for certain PBS medicines, there is a Safety Net 20 day rule.  This means that for these medicines a resupply within 20 days of having the previous medicine supplied will not count towards your Safety Net.  If you had already reached the Safety Net threshold, you will need to pay the relevant pre-Safety Net PBS co-payment, not the reduced Safety Net amount. Your pharmacist will be able to discuss this further with you if this is relevant.

What do I do if I have lost my Medicare or Concession Card?

Members of the general public can contact Services Australia on 132 011. Alternatively, the pharmacist can contact Services Australia for assistance on getting this information.

Will I be able to get my next supply of PBS medicines without a prescription?

A Continued Dispensing medicine can only be supplied once in a 12-month period. You will need to ensure that you speak to a doctor to get a prescription for any future supplies of these medicines.

 

For Pharmacists

Continued Dispensing arrangements are intended to complement, not replace, existing emergency supply provisions including “owing prescription” arrangements and in-person or digital methods for people to see their doctor and obtain a prescription, such as telehealth consultations and electronic prescriptions.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) has guidance on the supply of medicines under the Continued Dispensing arrangements.

Services Australia provides an Education guide on the Continued Dispensing Initiative.

Why have the medicines available under Continued Dispensing arrangements been changed?

At its November 2021 meeting the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommended additional medicines groups to the statins and oral contraceptives be available under ongoing Continued Dispensing arrangements. The medicines recommended by the PBAC are predominantly for the management of chronic disease, such as asthma and other lung conditions, diabetes, and heart disease. The PBAC also endorsed the inclusion of medicines for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The Closing the Gap PBS Copayment Program (the CTG Program), which reduces or removes the PBS copayment for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, will apply to medicines supplied under Continued Dispensing from 1 July 2022, where the medicines are eligible for supply under Continued Dispensing arrangements.

The Continued Dispensing Emergency Measure, initially put in place for the 2020 bushfire crisis and later extended to support the COVID-19 pandemic, concluded 30 June 2022.

What do I need to do before I can dispense a medicine under these arrangements?

Before considering supply of medicines under Continued Dispensing arrangements, you should make sure that:

  • the person has an immediate need for the medicine before a prescription can be obtained;
  • the usual prescriber is unable to be contacted and/or is unable to provide an e-prescription or owing prescription;
  • the medicine is eligible for supply under the arrangements (including under relevant state/territory legislation);
  • the person has been supplied the medicine in the last three months and their condition is stable;
  • the medicine has not been supplied under Continued Dispensing arrangements to the person by any pharmacy within the 12 months before the requested supply; and
  • it is safe and appropriate for the person to obtain the medicine.

Pharmacists are expected to adhere to the PSA’s guidelines. It’s your responsibility to make sure you follow the necessary Commonwealth and state/territory legislation before supplying under continued dispensing.

Do I need to comply with Commonwealth legislation or my state/territory legislation?

Supply of medicines under Continued Dispensing arrangements must be consistent with the Commonwealth legislation and the conditions of any relevant state or territory legislation.

I have a situation where I cannot dispense a medication under Continued Dispensing to a person because they have previously had this medicine dispensed under Continued Dispensing in the last 12 months. What other options are available?

Continued Dispensing complements other emergency supply provisions available under state and territory legislation, including the 3/7 day emergency supply rule and the “owing prescription” provision. You will need to comply with state and territory requirements.

In addition, the Australian Government has introduced a range of new measures to enable people to access health services in their home such as consultations via telehealth which the person may be eligible for.

Does the person have to provide consent for the supply under Continued Dispense arrangements?

Yes. The person must sign a declaration providing consent for the supply and acknowledging that they have been supplied medicine/s under Continued Dispensing arrangements.

Your pharmacy dispensing software (PDS) will generate a Modified Repeat Authorisation Form, which you can use to record:

  • the details of the Continued Dispensing supply; and
  • the person’s signature to show they received the medicine.

Your PDS will also generate a Consumer Declaration and Prescriber Notification Form, which you can use to:

  • show that the person understands they were supplied the medicine without consultation with their prescriber; and
  • notify the person's most recent PBS prescriber, or clinical practice, that a Continued Dispensing supply was given.

What documentation do I need to keep?

The approved pharmacist must, when the pharmaceutical benefit is supplied:

  1. record the information that the pharmacist used to support the pharmacist’s decision to supply the pharmaceutical benefit; and
  2. prepare information about the supply to the patient that the pharmacist will send to the PBS prescriber.

The information that must be recorded and prepared must include a statement that:

  1. the pharmaceutical benefit supplied is a pharmaceutical benefit that can be supplied under Continued Dispensing arrangements; and
  2. confirms that the usual prescriber was unable to be contacted and/or was unable to provide an e-prescription or owing prescription; and
  3. the person has been supplied the medicine in the last three months on the basis of a PBS prescription and their condition is stable; and
  4. the approved pharmacist is satisfied that the person has been taking the medicine regularly (uninterrupted) and the pharmaceutical benefit needs to be supplied to facilitate continuity of treatment.

Do I need to provide the person’s usual prescriber with notification of supply under Continued Dispensing?

Yes, you are required to prepare information about the supply to the patient and send it to the person’s usual PBS prescriber in a timely manner.

The information for the PBS prescriber must include a statement that:

  1. the pharmaceutical benefit supplied is a pharmaceutical benefit that can be supplied under Continued Dispensing arrangements; and
  2. confirms that the usual prescriber was unable to be contacted and/or was unable to provide an e-prescription or owing prescription; and
  3. the person has been supplied the medicine in the last three months on the basis of a PBS prescription and their condition is stable; and
  4. the approved pharmacist is satisfied that the person has been taking the medicine regularly (uninterrupted) and the pharmaceutical benefit needs to be supplied to facilitate continuity of treatment.

Your pharmacy dispensing software will generate a Consumer Declaration and Prescriber Notification Form, which you can use to:

  • show that the person understands they were supplied the medicine without consultation with their prescriber; and
  • notify the person's most recent PBS prescriber, or clinical practice, that a Continued Dispensing supply was given.

What medicines can I supply under Continued Dispensing arrangements?

PBS items that can be supplied under Continued Dispensing arrangements will be flagged in dispensing software and PBS Online.

The medicines available for supply under Continued Dispensing arrangements are predominantly for the management of chronic disease, such as asthma and other lung conditions, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. Oral contraceptives and medicines for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may also be supplied under Continued Dispensing arrangements.

The Closing the Gap PBS Co-payment Program (the CTG Program), which reduces or removes the PBS co-payment for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, will apply to medicines supplied under Continued Dispensing from 1 July 2022, where the medicines are eligible for supply under Continued Dispensing arrangements.

Does the person or prescriber need to provide a PBS prescription before I can make my PBS claim?

No. However, you should notify the person’s most recent PBS prescriber, or their practice, in writing that a Continued Dispensing supply has been given to the person.

The person’s previous PBS prescription was for an increased quantity. Can I supply that amount instead of the standard PBS/RPBS quantity?

No. Only up to the PBS maximum quantity or number of units may be supplied under Continued Dispensing arrangements.

Can I make claims for streamlined or authority required items?

Yes, you can make claims for any Continued Dispensing medicines, including those that are Authority Required (Streamlined) and Authority Required, as long as the medicine can be supplied under Continued Dispensing arrangements.

What should I do if the Continued Dispensing claim has been rejected?

If you have submitted a Continued Dispensing claim for an Authority Required medicine, ensure that your claim meets the legislative requirements (including your relevant state or territory legislative requirements) and guidelines.

If a Continued Dispensing claim for unrestricted or restricted medicine has been rejected, follow the advice provided by your pharmacy dispensing software (PDS). If you require further support, contact the PBS general enquiries line on 132 290 (Option 2).

What do I do if the person does not have their Medicare or health care card?

If a person does not have their Medicare, DVA or Centrelink card you should ring the PBS general enquiries line 132 290 (press option 1), for assistance.

 

For Prescribers

Why have the medicines available under Continued Dispensing been changed?

At its November 2021 meeting the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommended additional medicines groups to the statins and oral contraceptives be available under ongoing Continued Dispensing arrangements. The medicines recommended by the PBAC are predominantly for the management of chronic disease, such as asthma and other lung conditions, diabetes, and heart disease. The PBAC also endorsed the inclusion of medicines for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The Closing the Gap PBS Copayment Program (the CTG Program), which reduces or removes the PBS copayment for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, will apply to medicines supplied under Continued Dispensing from 1 July 2022, where the medicines are eligible for supply under Continued Dispensing arrangements.

The Continued Dispensing Emergency Measure, initially put in place for the 2020 bushfire crisis and later extended to support the COVID-19 pandemic, concluded 30 June 2022.

What are the requirements for my patient to be supplied PBS medicines without a prescription under Continued Dispensing arrangements?

Before dispensing medicines under these Continued Dispensing arrangements, the pharmacist must be satisfied that:

  • the person has an immediate need for the medicine before a prescription can be obtained;
  • the usual prescriber is unable to be contacted and/or is unable to provide an e-prescription or owing prescription;
  • the medicine is eligible for supply under the arrangements (including under relevant state/territory legislation);
  • the person has been supplied the medicine in the last three months and their condition is stable;
  • the medicine has not been supplied under Continued Dispensing arrangements to the person by any pharmacy within the 12 months before the requested supply; and
  • it is safe and appropriate for the person to obtain the medicine.

Will my patient continue to be able to get these medicines without a prescription?

A medicine can only be supplied under Continued Dispensing arrangements once in a 12-month period. Your patient will need to ensure they obtain a prescription for any future supplies of their medicines.

I have received a notification that a person has been provided PBS medicines under the Continued Dispensing arrangements. Do I need to provide a follow-up prescription?

No. However, you may wish to engage with the person to ensure they obtain prescriptions for any future supplies of these medicines.

 

For Software Vendors

What happens to the list of medicines eligible under Continued Dispensing arrangements when new medicines get listed on the PBS?

The PBS medicines permissible for supply under Continued Dispensing arrangements are predominantly for the management of chronic disease, such as for asthma and other lung conditions, diabetes and heart disease, including cholesterol-lowering medicines (statins). Oral contraceptives and medicines for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are also included. Any new PBS medicine listings that sit under these drug groups will also become eligible for access under Continued Dispensing arrangements.

 

For Sponsors

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has endorsed a set of principles for consideration of new medicines for potential inclusion in Continued Dispensing arrangements as follows:

  • PBS General Schedule (s85) medicines; or
  • Medicines for the treatment of HIV supplied through the Community Access Highly Specialised Drugs Program; and
  • Schedule 4 (prescription only) medicines; and
  • Medicines for the ongoing management of a chronic disease

Medicines not suitable for consideration for potential inclusion in Continued Dispensing arrangements as follows:

  • Schedule 8 medicines (controlled drugs);
  • Other medicines which are subject to abuse, misuse or dependence, and/or excluded from ‘emergency supply’ provision in states/territories:
    • amfetamine derivatives;
    • anabolic and androgenic steroids;
    • barbiturates;
    • benzodiazepines;
    • epoetins;
    • hypotics;
    • opioid analgesics;
    • pyschostimulants;
    • retinoids;
    • tranquilisers;
    • pregabalin;
    • quetiapine
  • Medicines supplied under the following s100 programs (unless separately approved):
    • botulinum toxin;
    • growth hormone;
    • highly specialised drugs;
    • IVF medicines;
    • Infusible chemotherapies

Submissions to the PBAC for listing of a new medicine or a change to the conditions of listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) must include supporting information as set out in the PBAC Guidelines.

 

General PBS Enquiries

For general PBS enquiries, members of the public can phone the Department of Health and Aged Care PBS information Line on 1800 020 613, or alternatively email the Department of Health (pbs@health.gov.au).

 

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