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Supply scheduled medicines

Advice on supply of Schedule 3 medicines, such as salbutamol, in community pharmacies in NSW

Regulations in NSW require the pharmacist personally hand a Schedule 3 substance to the person who is being supplied with it from a community pharmacy (when supplied without prescription). This safeguard ensures a pharmacist can assess therapeutic need and appropriateness of the medicine and reinforces for consumers the importance of professional advice when using Schedule 3 medicines.

A pharmacist can exercise professional judgment about supply to carers or other persons presenting on behalf of a patient. The pharmacist can directly supervise a pharmacy assistant to assist them.

The Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 (clause 18) specifies that to supply a Schedule 3 substance the pharmacist must ‘personally hand’ the substance to the person, and give the person an opportunity to seek advice on use of the substance.

Am I allowed to refuse to supply a medicine to a person who presents a technically valid prescription or who requests an OTC medicine?

Yes, you are not legally compelled to supply a medicine. In some cases you may even be legally compelled to refuse. If you have reasonable grounds for believing that the request is for a quantity or a purpose not in accordance with the recognised therapeutic standards of what is appropriate, you should refuse to supply.

Can I supply scheduled medicines to somebody who is going to sell or supply them to others, such as a shopkeeper, or an employer who wishes to supply to his employees?

No. In NSW, a pharmacy cannot supply by wholesale. A pharmacy may only supply scheduled medicines to patients of that pharmacist for their personal treatment. (A pharmacy may supply to doctors or similarly authorised practitioners for bona fide emergency treatment only.)

Certain shopkeepers in rural areas, and other persons who may be authorised to obtain scheduled medicines, should obtain them from a licensed wholesaler.

I have been offered some medicines from overseas or from a ‘backyard’ manufacturer. Can I sell them?

It is illegal to supply any medicine in Australia unless:

  • it is on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, i.e. it has an AUST L or AUST R number on the label, or
  • you have extemporaneously prepared the medicine yourself for a particular patient’s order or prescription.

Can I sell medicines which I have manufactured myself?

Yes, if you have extemporaneously prepared it yourself for a particular patient's order or prescription in the course of your practice as a pharmacist. Otherwise, it is illegal to supply any medicine in Australia unless it is on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (i.e. it has an AUST L or AUST R number on the label).

Can I sell medicines past their expiry date, give them away for free or send them to a poor or disaster-stricken country?

No. It is illegal to supply any medicine (even unscheduled medicines, vitamins and herbal remedies) past the expiry date to anyone. Sending expired or unordered medicines to needy countries is generally not helpful, may exacerbate health problems and provide logistical issues for disposal.

Can I re-label and/or re-pack a Schedule 4 registered medicine (such as mometasone nasal spray) and supply it without prescription where the drug appears in both Schedule 4 and in a lower poisons Schedule (or is unscheduled)?

This is not recommended, and may be illegal if numerous and complex conditions are not complied with. For example, you must remove from the label (and not supply any other material which contains) any references to “prescription only” and any references to dose, pack size, indications, patient age, and length of treatment which would make the medicine a Schedule 4 medicine. Labelling must be as for a dispensed prescription medicine, including patient name, directions, date and so on. You can supply individual patients only, and only for the permitted purpose/s (i.e. not for any purpose which is included in the Schedule 4 entry for the substance); you must not supply it if you suspect (or ought to suspect) that the customer intends to use it for other purposes. You must also avoid using a prescription product brand name in any advertising.

How many packs of a Schedule 2 (S2) or Schedule 3 (S3) medicine am I allowed to supply at once?

A pharmacist may supply a quantity in accordance with the recognised therapeutic standards of what is appropriate under the circumstances for the treatment of the customer or the person for whom the medicine is intended, e.g. a member of the customer’s immediate family.

A foreign doctor showed me his registration card and insisted I supply him a Schedule 4 (S4) medication. Can I supply the S4?

If the doctor is not on the Australian national register of medical practitioners, the doctor should be treated as any member of the general public. The registration status of a practitioner can be accessed on AHPRA . If the doctor is Australian-registered the normal prescription requirements apply.

'Owing script' supply

I dispensed an ‘owing script’ supply to a patient in good faith because the patient told me he had run out of it. Now the patient’s doctor is refusing to give me a prescription for the medication. Shouldn’t the doctor give me the prescription?

Unless you have a valid prescription, or a doctor has authorised you either face-to-face, by telephone or by fax or by email to supply the medication, you may not supply a prescription medicine. The doctor is not obliged to give you a prescription in other circumstances. A pharmacist may, under certain strictly limited circumstances (as per clause 45 of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008) dispense up to 3 days' emergency supply of a normal Schedule 4 medicine (not a Schedule 4D drug or Schedule 8 drug) without contacting a doctor or obtaining a prescription. In this case, you are not ‘owed’ a prescription; it is supply without prescription. Further details are available in the Guide to Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Legislation for Pharmacists (TG79).

Can I supply a Schedule 3 (S3) drug ordered via the Internet or mail order without a prescription?

No. If a Schedule 3 drug is not supplied by prescription, a pharmacist must personally hand the medicine to the customer and give him (or her) the opportunity to seek advice about its use, including dose and possible toxicity of the medicine.

Supply scheduled medicines by mail

I have a patient who lives a long way from the pharmacy and finds it difficult to collect her dispensed medicines. Can I send them to her through the post?

The Poisons and Therapeutic Goods legislation allows for a pharmacist to post dispensed Schedule 3 or Schedule 4 medicines.

The Poisons and Therapeutic Goods legislation allows for a pharmacist to send dispensed Schedule 8 medications by registered mail. The pharmacist must obtain and keep written evidence of postage of the drug.

Further information on Australia Post requirements can be found in the Post Guide to Dangerous & Prohibited Goods & Packaging.

Prior to sending medication overseas it is advised that Medicare Australia is contacted on 1800 500 147 for further information. Information on sending PBS medications overseas are published on Medicare Australia .

Current as at: Friday 26 March 2021
Contact page owner: Pharmaceutical Services