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Active Ingredient Prescribing

Page last updated: 10 September 2020

Active Ingredient Prescribing will ensure consumers receive consistent and standardised medicines information. This will support safe and appropriate use of medicines, helping people to understand the medicines they are taking. The new medicine regulations require doctors to include the active ingredient names on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation PBS (RPBS) prescriptions. This will mean most medicines will be prescribed by their active ingredient, not the brand name.  Active Ingredient Prescribing is part of wider Australian Government initiatives to improve safety and value for consumers when receiving their medicines.

When will Active Ingredient Prescribing begin?

The Department of Health has changed the 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.

Visit the PBS Website for more information or email aiprescribing@health.gov.au