PBS Arrangements to Support Australians Affected by Natural Disasters and Emergencies

Page last updated: 1 April 2024

The Australian Government has arrangements to support people affected by natural disasters and other emergencies to continue to access their essential medicines at the usual Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) or Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) cost.

These arrangements complement emergency supply provisions available under state and territory legislation, such as the three days emergency medicine supply without a prescription.  Arrangements include Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) telehealth items to enable consultation with your doctor digitally, electronic prescribing so that you don’t need a paper copy of your prescription and Continued Dispensing arrangements that enable your pharmacist to supply PBS medicines without a prescription in certain circumstances.

Patient Entitlement

If you do not have your Medicare, DVA or Centrelink card, if you have access to a phone and infrastructure to support phone calls is available, you can contact Services Australia on 132 011. Alternatively, a pharmacist can contact the PBS Inquiry line 132 290 (press option 1), for assistance with Medicare or concessional details.

Three days emergency medicines supply without a prescription

In most states and territories in Australia three (3) days supply of medication without a prescription, in accordance with state/territory emergency supply provisions can be supplied by a pharmacist for most medicines.

 ‘Owing Prescriptions’

A pharmacist may supply you with your PBS medication on the basis of an “owing prescription”, where your pharmacist confirms your medication details and supply under this arrangement with your doctor. The doctor is required to forward a PBS prescription to the pharmacy within seven days of supply, in accordance with state/territory law.

Continued Dispensing

Continued Dispensing provides for the supply of some PBS medicines by pharmacists without a prescription, where there is an immediate need for the medicine and the PBS prescriber is unable to be contacted and/or is unable to provide an electronic or owing PBS prescription. The PBS maximum quantity of an eligible medicine can be supplied at the usual PBS price once within a 12-month period. You must have previously been supplied the medicine on the basis of a PBS prescription in the last three months and be stabilised on the treatment.

Medicines subject to the 4/20 day PBS rule

In cases where you may have lost your medication or your medication has been damaged due to a natural disaster or emergency a pharmacist may provide a subsequent supply with a PBS repeat prescription, but must endorse the PBS prescription with the words 'immediate supply necessary' and sign the PBS prescription.

General PBS Enquiries

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

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

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

Medicine distribution arrangements

The Department of Health and Aged Care monitors PBS supply arrangements in areas affected by natural disasters or an emergency to ensure that patient access to essential medicines can continue.

Information specific to pharmacies

Telecommunications impact on PBS online

Natural disaster or emergency may affect telecommunications capacity in some areas. Approved pharmacists in these areas may not have real-time connection to Services Australia for prescription verification and entitlement checking. Any service interruption will not affect pharmacy PBS claiming as dispensing software will store all claimed items until the telecommunications and connection with Services Australia through PBS Online are restored and validation can occur.

Pharmacy Claiming - Missing prescriptions/no paperwork

If your pharmacy has lost or damaged prescriptions due to a natural disaster or emergency you should complete a Statutory Declaration and keep it with your records for compliance purposes. The Statutory Declaration should include a statement about loss of prescriptions as a result of the 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 natural disaster or emergency 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 and Aged Care 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.

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