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How do I make a complaint about a doctor’s prescribing?

If you are concerned about a doctor’s prescribing, talk to them about your concerns as soon as possible, in the first instance.

If your concerns persist and your complaint is about alleged illegal or inappropriate supply or prescribing of medicines, you can report your concerns to the Duty Pharmaceutical Officer at Pharmaceutical Services (NSW Ministry of Health) on (02) 9391 9944 during business hours.

If you are concerned about the doctor’s actions, other than prescribing, you can contact the Inquiry Service of the Health Care Complaints Commission on (02) 9219 7444 or 1800 043 159 (toll free).

My pharmacy is out of stock of a particular drug, can I borrow some of this medication from a nearby pharmacy?

Yes, a pharmacist may borrow scheduled medication from another pharmacy in the quantity necessary to meet a patient’s order or prescription, and the pharmacist may replace the stock that is borrowed. Any other supply is considered wholesale supply by a pharmacy and is prohibited.

Why does my computer dispensing program disagree with NSW Ministry of Health advice as to what the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods legislation says?

It is the responsibility of a pharmacist to ensure that the dispensing software used complies with the provisions of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods legislation and the requirements stipulated in the document Approved Systems for Recording the Supply of Substances on Prescription Generally or in an Emergency to Health Professionals, and the 'Standard for Dispensary Computers in NSW, 2001’ which can be obtained by contacting the Duty Pharmaceutical Officer at Pharmaceutical Services on (02) 9391 9944 during business hours.

A pharmacist should not rely on software alone as a guide to legal obligations. If your software is in error regarding what it tells you about the legal requirements, contact your software company to have the error corrected or change to a different software system.

I want to know if a particular medicine is listed on the PBS. How do I find out?

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is administered by the Commonwealth Government. To find a medicine listed on the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits, search online or contact the PBS Information Line on 1800 020 613.

I suspect that a prescription has been forged or altered by someone other than the prescriber. What should I do?

First contact the prescriber – obtain the doctor’s phone number from a source other than that showing on the prescription. If the purported prescriber confirms that he (or she) did not write the prescription, under the provisions of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 you are required to retain the prescription (if possible) and report the circumstances to your local police station. If the forgery is on a stolen or illicitly printed form, also advise Pharmaceutical Services (NSW Ministry of Health) on (02) 9391 9944 during business hours.

What are the requirements for computer-generated prescriptions?

All prescriptions, including computer-generated prescriptions, must be signed in the prescriber’s own handwriting. More information about the requirements for computer-generated prescriptions are available in the document Criteria for Issuing Non-Handwritten (Computer Generated) Prescriptions.

I have been presented with a private (non-PBS) prescription which the doctor has issued in duplicate. What do I do with the duplicate copy (i.e., the Medicare or Department of Veterans’ Affair copy)?

The duplicate copy should be destroyed. Duplicate prescriptions are required only for prescriptions for which the pharmacist claims a refund from the Commonwealth (Medicare or Department of Veterans’ Affairs). Private prescriptions should not be issued in duplicate, especially if they are for medicines which may be abused.

A patient has asked for a product containing pseudoephedrine but does not have a driver’s licence. What other forms of ID are acceptable?

NSW law does not require patients to produce identification. However, as when supplying any scheduled medicine, you should use your professional judgment to establish that the patient has a genuine therapeutic need for the medication.

What are the labelling requirements for Webster® packs and other unit-dose packs?

Unit-dose packs, including Webster® packs, have the same labelling requirements as any dispensed medicine. These requirements are detailed in the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008. A Guide to poisons and therapeutic goods legislation for pharmacists is available for download.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia also publishes standards for the provision of Dose Administration Aids which are available online.

Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) in hospital inpatients: What are a prescriber’s responsibilities when prescribing methadone or buprenorphine to opioid dependent patients in a public or private hospital?

When an opioid dependent person enters hospital it is important that the Drug and Alcohol team are actively involved in the management of the patient, regardless of whether the patient is already on an Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) or not.

If there is no current OTP authority held by any prescriber, an application to prescribe methadone or buprenorphine on the OTP is required only if the inpatient is to be treated for a period greater than 14 days. Upon discharge of the patient the hospital prescriber and the drug & alcohol team are responsible for facilitating a seamless transfer of care to an accredited community OTP prescriber and dosing point.

If there is a current OTP authority held by a prescriber to prescribe methadone or buprenorphine for the patient upon admission, the hospital prescriber should liaise with both this prescriber and the dosing point to confirm current and last dose details (including any take-aways) and to discuss and agree on a management plan for the patient whilst in hospital. The arrangements and management plan should be clearly documented.

If the patient has been an inpatient for more than 14 days:

  • The hospital prescriber and the current prescriber can agree to continue with the existing management arrangements. These arrangements should be clearly documented.
  • The hospital prescriber may elect to apply for the authority. The hospital prescriber applying to take over should be an accredited OTP prescriber or a staff specialist from the drug and alcohol team. This will require the permission of the current prescriber who must complete an exit form and return this to the Pharmaceutical Services Unit (PSU) as soon as possible. OTP Application and exit forms are available from the PSU website. Prior to discharge of the patient the hospital prescriber and the drug & alcohol team are responsible for facilitating a seamless transfer of care to an accredited OTP prescriber and dosing point in the community.

Please note there is no requirement in any of the above circumstances for a community prescriber to supply a prescription to the hospital. A direction on an inpatient chart satisfies the legal requirements for administration of methadone or buprenorphine in a hospital.

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Page Updated: Friday 22 November 2013
Contact page owner: Pharmaceutical Services