Continued Dispensing arrangements

Continued Dispensing commenced as an initiative under the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement.  The purpose of Continued Dispensing is to improve patient adherence to medicine therapy in defined exceptional circumstances through changes to both Federal and State and Territory legislation.   

Continued Dispensing allows the supply of a single full pack (maximum PBS quantity) of an eligible medicine, currently limited to statins and oral contraceptives, to a patient as a PBS benefit where there is an immediate need for that medicine but it is not practicable to obtain a prescription or order from their doctor.

Continued Dispensing arrangements are designed to complement existing State and Territory emergency supply arrangements. A follow-up prescription from the prescriber is not required.

The National Health (Continued Dispensing) Determination commenced on 1 July 2012.  Continued Dispensing arrangements formally commenced on 1 September 2013 when the Commonwealth PBS claims systems to enable Continued Dispensing transactions commenced.

It is the pharmacist’s responsibility to ensure compliance with the National Health (Continued Dispensing) Determination 2012 and relevant State and Territory legislation before providing a PBS benefit supply through the Continued Dispensing arrangements.  

DHS-Medicare have made available an Education Guide – Continued Dispensing Initiative – PBS requirements. This Guide provides clear guidance on eligibility requirements, dispensing, online PBS claiming and other important information.  The PSA Guidelines for the Continued Dispensing of eligible medicines by pharmacists provides guidance on processes and professional responsibilities.

All States and Territories have made the necessary amendments to legislation to allow Continued Dispensing nationally.

Jurisdiction Date of amendments Legislation (current as of June 2017)
South Australia September 2013 Controlled Substances (Poisons) Regulations 2011, section 21(2g)
Tasmania September 2013 Poisons Regulations 2008 section 43A
Victoria September 2013 Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017, section 57(b) and section 57(c)
Western Australia September 2013 Medicines and Poisons Regulations 2016, section 33
Structured Administration and Supply Arrangements: Pharmacists – continued dispensing
New South Wales September 2013 Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 section 45A
ACT November 2013 Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008, section 255
Northern Territory May 2014 Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act, section 59A
Queensland Late 2016 Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996, section 171

Whilst the emergency supply provisions of the States and Territories generally permit a pharmacist to supply a small amount of most prescription medicines in the absence of a valid prescription (generally up to 3 day’s supply), this supply is not covered by the PBS and the cost must be met by the patient.

It is the Guild’s position that Continued Dispensing should be extended for patients stabilised on medicines used to treat a range of chronic health conditions, such as heart conditions, epilepsy, diabetes, asthma and COPD, stroke prevention, arthritis, glaucoma and mental health.  Through expansion, community pharmacists will be better positioned to assist patients in emergency supply situations who meet the exceptional Continued Dispensing conditions.  Patients can receive a full pack of their medicine as a PBS benefit without the added stress of needing to see their GP within a few days.

The cost to the Government is negligible, and expansion would address barriers to improved adherence.

Expansion would be of great value in times of catastrophe such as floods, fires and cyclones to ensure patients have ongoing access to their medicines or prescriptions should they be lost during the event.

Page last updated 09 July 2019