​​​​ On this page

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 to continue a prescription beyond two months for:

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

For any inquiries regarding applications to prescribe, contact the Approval Management Section, Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit via email MOH-S8Auth@health.nsw.gov.au or via phone 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 Services Australia which is for the purposes of a subsidy under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The legal requirements for an authority to prescribe drugs of addiction in NSW are available at NSW legal requirements for an authority to prescribe drugs of addiction. A summary is provided below.

An authority from the NSW Ministry of Health (issued by the Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit) is required prior to the supply or prescription for:

  • any drug of addiction (S8) to a drug dependent patient
  • psychostimulant medications dexamphetamine, lisdexamfetamine and methylphenidate, see Prescribe a psychostimulant medication for further information
  • any of the medicines listed below when continuing treatment for more than two months to a person who is not drug dependent:
    • any injectable drug of addiction
    • any drug of addiction for intranasal use, or for spray or application to mucous membranes
    • alprazolam
    • flunitrazepam
    • hydromorphone
    • buprenorphine (except transdermal preparations)
    • methadone

Applications for an authority to supply or prescribe can be lodged via SafeScript NSW or by ​submitting an application form listed in Application forms for authority to prescribe ​or supply.

Further information can be obtained by contacting the Approvals Management Section, Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit via email MOH-S8Auth@health.nsw.gov.au or via phone during​ business hours on (02) 9424 5923.

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

No, except in limited urgent circumstances. Authorisation to prescribe a Schedule 8 medicine is granted only after a submission of an application via SafeScript NSW  (for psychostimulants and opioids under the Opioid Treatment Program), or for all other medicines via a ​written application made to the NSW Ministry of Health (Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit). See Application forms for authority to prescribe.

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 a patient to continue on the S8 medicine you should write a prescription that will provide enough medication until their 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.  You should make arrangements with your locum medical practitioner to apply for authority and/or advise the patients affected that they should ask the doctor who will manage them in your absence to prescribe for them.

Sa​feScript ​NSW shows that my patient has an approval issued to them by a prescriber from a different practice. What do I do if I want to continue with care and the prescribing of this medicine to this patient?

If you want to prescribe a medicine to your patient and notice that SafeScript NSW shows an approval issued to another prescriber, you will need to contact this prescriber to discuss the care of the patient. SafeScript NSW will prompt you with an alert and not allow you to progress with your application unless the initial prescriber exits/cancels the approval for you to take over. You will then be able to apply for an authority to prescribe the medicine.
You need to ensure appropriate arrangements are in place for patient care to avoid duplication of treatment and issue of prescriptions by different prescribers for the same monitored medicine.

[back to top]

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 they have been prescribing to the patient. The letter states that they authorise me to do so. Can I prescribe it?

Unless you are a medical practitioner authorised by the NSW Ministry of Health to prescribe psychostimulant medication you are not permitted to prescribe or supply a Schedule 8 psychostimulant medicine. Authorities to prescribe S8 medicines are not transferable. See Prescribe a psychostimulant medication for further information or contact the Approvals Management Section, Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit via email MOH-S8Auth@health.nsw.gov.au or via phone during business hours (02) 9424 5923.

Can a GP prescribe Schedule 8 psychostimulant medication?

The prescribing of Schedule 8 psychostimulant medication (e.g. methylphenidate, dexamfetamine, lisdexamfetamine) requires authorisation from the NSW Ministry of Health (issued by the Pharmaceutical Services Unit) and is generally restricted to specialists, such as paediatricians, psychiatrists and neurologists. GPs may apply for authority to co-manage a patient with a specialist.

Patients who may require Schedule 8 psychostimulant medications should be referred to an appropriate specialist for assessment. 

It is unlawful 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 as:

  • medical treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with dexamfetamine, methylphenidate, and lisdexamfetamine
  • medical treatment of narcolepsy with dexamfetamine and methylphenidate.
​​​
Current as at: Friday 10 November 2023
Contact page owner: Pharmaceutical Services