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Prescribing a Schedule 8 (S8) medication

How do I apply for an authority to prescribe a drug of addiction for long term chronic pain management?

An application form must be completed and forwarded to Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit, NSW Ministry of Health. For further information, please see Prescribing a Schedule 8 opioid or benzodiazepine.

Note, if a patient is a drug dependent person, an application must be made and approved by the NSW Ministry of Health before any quantity of any drug of addiction (Schedule 8 drug) can be prescribed. Approval is notified in writing.

If a patient is not a drug dependent person, an application must be made where the prescription of any of the following drugs is to continue beyond two months:

  • any injectable drug of addiction
  • any drug of addiction for intranasal use, or for spray or application to mucous membranes
  • alprazolam
  • buprenorphine (except transdermal preparations)
  • flunitrazepam
  • hydromorphone
  • methadone

For any inquiries regarding applications to prescribe, contact the Monitoring and Compliance Section, Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit during business hours on (02) 9424 5923.

Do I need an authority from NSW Ministry of Health to prescribe a Schedule 8 (S8) medicine?

You may, depending on the S8 medicine (‘drug of addiction’) involved and the circumstances.

It is important to note that an authority from the NSW Ministry of Health is distinct from, and independent of, an authority from Medicare Australia which is for the purposes of a subsidy under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Details of authority requirements in NSW are available in the document PDF Requirements for an Authority to Prescribe Drugs of Addiction Under Section 28 of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act. A summary is provided below.

If a patient is drug dependent, written authority of the NSW Ministry of Health (Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit) must be obtained prior to prescribing any drug of addiction. Prior written authorisation is also required to prescribe the psychostimulant drugs dexamphetamine, lisdexamfetamine and methylphenidate to any patient. Particular requirements apply to the prescription of these drugs for the management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults, see Prescribing a psychostimulant for further information.

There are authority requirements to prescribe or supply for persons who are not drug dependent for the following medicines:

  • any injectable drug of addiction
  • any drug of addiction for intranasal use, or for spray or application to mucous membranes
  • alprazolam
  • buprenorphine (except transdermal preparations)
  • flunitrazepam
  • hydromorphone
  • methadone

To prescribe or supply any of the medicines listed above for more than two months (to a person who is not drug dependent) a written authority of the NSW Ministry of Health is required.

Further information can be obtained by contacting the Monitoring and Compliance Section, Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit on
(02) 9424 5923 during business hours.

Can I get an authority to prescribe a Schedule 8 (S8) medicine over the phone?

No. Authorisation to prescribe a Schedule 8 medicine is granted only after a written application is made to the NSW Ministry of Health (Pharmaceutical Services). Application forms for authority to prescribe are available.

There are separate procedures for applications to prescribe methadone or buprenorphine under the NSW Opioid Treatment Program (OTP). Practitioners interested in prescribing under the NSW OTP should contact Clinical Policy, Alcohol and Other Drugs in the Centre for Population Health of the NSW Ministry of Health in the first instance – telephone (02) 9391 9000.

I am going to be away from my practice for several weeks. What happens to the patients for whom I have a NSW Ministry of Health authority to prescribe a Schedule 8 (S8) medicine?

If you wish the patient to continue on the S8 medicine you should write him (or her) a prescription that will provide enough medication for him until his next appointment after your return. If you are hiring a locum, or are in a multi-doctor practice, your locum or a practice partner may prescribe S8 medicines to the patient under the terms of your NSW Ministry of Health S8 authority if it is therapeutically necessary. Only a minimal amount should be prescribed – enough to last until the patient’s next appointment with you.

If you are going to be absent for an extended period of time, you should cancel your NSW Ministry of Health authorities to prescribe S8 medicines and advise the patients affected that they should ask another doctor to prescribe for them.

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Can a doctor self-prescribe Schedule 8 (S8) medications, or prescribe these medications for a family member?

The Poisons and Therapeutic Goods legislation prohibits a medical practitioner from self-administering any unregistered drug of addiction (S8 medicine).

A medical practitioner must not self-administer any S8 medicine, except in an emergency and for no more than 7 days, without written approval from the NSW Ministry of Health.

The NSW Medical Council policy states that it is not advisable for doctors to initiate treatment (including prescribing) for themselves or immediate family members. The Council is of the view that all doctors should have their own independent General Practitioner. Additional information is available online from the Medical Council.

Prescribing a Schedule 8 psychostimulant medication

My patient’s psychiatrist has sent me a letter asking me to continue prescribing the S8 psychostimulant which he has been prescribing to the patient. He said he authorises me to do so. Can I prescribe it?

No, unless you are authorised by the NSW Ministry of Health to prescribe psychostimulant medication. Authorities to prescribe S8 drugs are not transferable. Further advice can be obtained by contacting the Monitoring and Compliance Section, Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit on (02) 9424 5923 during business hours.

Can a GP prescribe Schedule 8 psychostimulant medication?

The prescribing of Schedule 8 psychostimulant medication (e.g. methylphenidate, Ritalin®, Ritalin LA®, Concerta®, dexamphetamine, lisdexamfetamine, Vyvanse®) requires authorisation from the NSW Ministry of Health (Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit) and is generally restricted to specialists, such as paediatricians and psychiatrists.

Patients who may require Schedule 8 psychostimulant medication should be referred to a specialist for assessment.

It is illegal for anyone other than an authorised doctor to issue a prescription for a Schedule 8 psychostimulant. Prescriptions may only be dispensed if they are endorsed with a NSW Ministry of Health authority number. See Prescribe a psychostimulant medication for more information.

Prescribing a Schedule 8 medication for children

​​​​​When a medical practitioner is to carry out special medical treatment involving the administration of a Schedule 8 medicine to a child (under 16 years), an exemption under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 must be sought. Exemption is sought by making an application to NSW Health.
An exemption is in place for any medical practitioner carrying out special medical treatment involving the administration of a Schedule 8 psychostimulant medicine to a child in the following circumstances:
  • Medical treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with dexamfetamine, methylphenidate, and lisdexamfetamine.
  • Medical treatment of narcolepsy with dexamfetamine and methylphenidate.
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Page Updated: Wednesday 2 October 2019
Contact page owner: Pharmaceutical Services