Limits on dispensing and sales of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

In order to ensure equitable access to medicines for all Australians, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, in consultation with the Department of Health, are requiring community pharmacists to enforce limits on dispensing and sales of prescription and over-the-counter medicines. This measure is also supported by the National Pharmaceutical Services Association, representing pharmaceutical wholesalers.

It is critical to protect the access of medicines for Australians. Pharmacists should continue to limit the supply of specific prescription only and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines listed on the TGA website to:

  • Dispensing only one prescription at a time
  • Selling only one OTC unit at a time

In addition and subject to professional discretion, pharmacists should continue to limit dispensing and OTC sales of all other medicines to one months' supply or one unit.

Dispensing of multiple repeats is permitted only for valid Regulation 49 prescriptions, which must be used sparingly by PBS prescribers and only in exceptional circumstances in accordance with legislated criteria. If pharmacists have doubts about the appropriateness of a particular Regulation 49 prescription please discuss with the prescriber.

The TGA has also identified OTC medicines  where pharmacists have been requested to limit sales, including:

  • Salbutamol inhalers
  • Adrenaline auto-injectors
  • Emergency contraceptives
  • Naloxone
  • Analgesics

Note that the Schedule 3 listing for salbutamol inhalers changed in 2020 and is limited to one pack per person being treated:

  • for the relief of bronchospasm in patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and for acute prophylaxis against exercise-induced asthma and other stimuli known to induce bronchospasm; or
  • for the treatment of a person with a record of previous supply from a pharmacy; or
  • to persons authorised under a law of a State or Territory to use or supply salbutamol in the practice of their profession; or
  • for use in institutional first aid

Pharmacists are encouraged to record supply so that people requiring salbutamol inhalers have record of supply.

The Pharmacy Guild is a member of the TGA’s medicine shortages working party which continues to monitor, assess and manage any medicine supply issues. This can include working with the TGA and Department of Health to limit orders from wholesalers to ensure equitable distribution of stock, including to regional and rural pharmacies.

Supply of OTC and prescription medicine quantities that are not clinically required for an individual may be illegal under State and Territory law and contravene Pharmacy Board Professional Practice guidelines.