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Advice for approved pharmacists supplying medicines to patients in areas affected by natural disasters, including bushfires - December 2019

Page last updated: 24 December 2019

Advice for approved pharmacists supplying medicines to patients in areas affected by natural disasters, including bushfires - December 2019

The following information may be of assistance to pharmacists in areas affected by natural disasters, including bushfires, to ensure that patients can continue to access their essential medicines.

Patient Entitlement Checks

If patients do not have their Medicare, DVA or Centrelink card the pharmacist should ring the PBS Inquiry line 132 290 (press option 1), for assistance with a patient’s Medicare or concessional details.

Dispensing limited amounts of medicines without a prescription

Under state and territory legislation, an approved pharmacist may supply a limited amount of medicines to a patient without a valid prescription, if they believe the patient has an urgent need for that medicine. In most states, this is limited to a three (3) day supply of medication. This supply cannot be claimed through the PBS, but the pharmacist can charge the patient privately.

A pharmacist may dispense using ‘owing prescription’ provision

Under state and territory legislation, an authorised prescriber may direct a pharmacist to supply a medicine to a patient without a valid prescription when the patient has an urgent need for that medicine. A prescriber may provide this instruction by telephone, email or fax, and must forward a formal prescription to the pharmacy to cover the supply within designated timeframes.

Continued Dispensing

For patients requiring urgent supply of oral contraceptives or cholesterol lowering medicines (statins), pharmacists may dispense a single PBS quantity under Continued Dispensing arrangements.  Supply of medicines under these circumstances must be consistent with the Guidelines for the Continued Dispensing of eligible prescribed medicines by pharmacists. More information about Continued Dispensing is available from the Services Australia website.

Medicines subject to the 4/20 day PBS rule

In cases where the patient may have lost medication due to an emergency situation, a pharmacist may provide a subsequent supply, but must endorse the prescription with the words 'immediate supply necessary' and sign the PBS prescription.

PBS Authority line 1800 888 333 (PBS) 1800 552 580 (RPBS)

If a prescriber contacts the PBS Authority line for a patient who has lost their medication and the related approved authority prescription/repeats, Services Australia can approve a new Authority inside normal time frames.

Medicine distribution arrangements

The Department of Health regularly monitors PBS supply arrangements across Australiato ensure that patient access to essential medicines can continue during emergency situations.

Telecommunications impact on PBS online

Natural disasters and other emergencies may affect telecommunications capacity in some areas. Approved pharmacists in these areas may not have real-time connection to the Department for prescription verification and entitlement checking. Any service interruption will not affect your PBS claim as your dispensing software will store all claimed items until the telecommunications and connection with the Department through PBS Online are restored and validation can occur.

Claiming – Missing prescriptions/no paperwork

If a pharmacy has lost or damaged prescriptions due to an emergency situation the pharmacy should complete a Statutory Declaration and keep it with their records for compliance purposes.  The Statutory Declaration should include a statement about loss of prescriptions as a result of a natural disaster/emergency, and an undertaking that an insurance claim has not been made.

Pharmacists can download a Statutory Declaration form from the following government website: www.ag.gov.au/statdec or purchase one from any post office or newsagent.

Emergency relocation of a pharmacy

Pharmacists seeking to temporarily relocate their approved pharmacy due to damage from a disaster or emergency situation should send an email to pbsapprovedsuppliers@health.gov.au or phone 1800 316 389 quoting the name of the affected pharmacy, its current PBS approval number, addresses of the current and temporary premises, and expected timeframe for return to the approved premises. 

The Department of Health will advise wholesaler distributors of the temporary approval to supply PBS medicines at alternative premises to facilitate delivery of PBS medicines to the temporary address.

NB: The PBS pharmacy approval number will not change for these temporary relocations. Pharmacists are also required to continue to comply with State legislation with regards to the temporary premises they will be using.

Issued by the Pharmacy Branch

Technology Assessment and Access Division

Department of Health

24 December 2019