Active Ingredient Prescribing is now live

Date: 3 February 2021

By Suzanne Greenwood, Executive Director

The introduction of Active Ingredient Prescribing from 1 February 2021 marks a major change in pharmacy practice.

Under the new system, computer-generated prescriptions for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation PBS (RPBS) medicines must be written by active ingredient to be dispensed as a pharmaceutical benefit.

Prescribers can still nominate a brand on the prescription and indicate if substitution is permitted, but the active ingredient must be written before the brand for non-exempt PBS/RPBS prescriptions.

There is a List of Medicines for Brand Consideration where it is recommended that prescribers consider also indicating the brand for safety reasons.

Exemptions to the Active Ingredient Prescribing requirements, include:

  • Hand-written prescriptions
  • Paper-based residential medication charts
  • Computer generated ‘free-text’ prescriptions) - for instance, for extemporaneous items
  • Prescriptions for medicines with four or more active ingredients
  • Prescriptions for medicines on the Excluded List prepared by the Australian Commission for Quality and safety in Healthcare
  • Non-PBS/RPBS prescriptions

To minimise any impact on patients and claiming issues for pharmacists, the Guild has negotiated a six-month grace period during which non-conformant prescriptions can still be dispensed and claimed as a pharmaceutical benefit.

The Government agreed to this grace period for approved pharmacies to dispense and claim if it is not practical to obtain a conformant prescription. Prescriptions written during this period and any repeats are valid for the life of the prescription.

Pharmacists are urged to contact local prescribers to ensure they are aware of the changes and to encourage them to update their prescribing software as soon as possible.

Patients trust their local pharmacists and pharmacy staff and as a result it will fall largely on community pharmacists and their staff to support patients with these changes.

Given that this change aims to improve patient safety, the Guild is keen to know if consumers have any concerns with the changes, or experience any problems.

Any feedback from patients can be emailed to

Contact: The Guild
Phone: 13GUILD

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Page last updated on: 03 February 2021