COVID-19 information for pharmacists
This information was last updated Tuesday 23 February 2021
PSA is committed to keeping members informed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This page will keep you informed with the latest information as it becomes available. It contains links to up-to-date information, guidance and resources from governments and other trusted sources for pharmacists and their patients.
COVID-19 vaccine training (Updated 22 February 2021): The COVID vaccination training modules from the Commonwealth Department of Health are now available, including additional modules on the AstraZeneca and PfizerBioNTech vaccines. Read more here.
COVID-19 vaccine program EOI for community pharmacy (Updated 22 February 2021): The EOI for community pharmacies to participate in the COVID-19 vaccination program has now closed. While you wait for the outcome, information and FAQs can be accessed below. Read more here.
Face masks and PPE (Updated 19 February 2021). Find the latest information and resources regarding the use of face masks for pharmacists and consumers. Read more here.
Medicine supply limits continue to apply – Find the latest updates on the supply of prescription and non-prescription medicines here.
The Commonwealth Department of Health continue to publish and update a variety of information and resources for health professionals and patients on the evolving COVID-19 situation.
Minister Hunt has penned an open letter to the community pharmacy sector thanking them for their dedication and service to the Australian Community. Read the letter here.
Stay informed and protected
The Australian Government has released a number of official apps to enable all Australians to stay up to data and protected.
The COVIDSafe app speeds up contacting people exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19). This helps to support you, your friends and your family.
PSA joined with 11 other peak health organisations in supporting COVIDSafe as a public health measure, and as a critical tool in helping our nation fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Health has developed a number of useful resources to help promote the COVIDSafe app. Display these posters in your pharmacy and use the social media tiles to spread the word. Additional resources including videos and social media tiles can be downloaded here.
Know faster if you’ve come in contact
Keep your community safe
We need your help
COVIDSafe app – Download today
Coronavirus Australia app
Stay up to date with official information and advice about the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. Check your symptoms and get notified when urgent information and updates are published.
Australian Government WhatsApp channel for COVID-19
Join the COVID-19 WhatsApp channel to learn the latest on Australia’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19).
If you already use WhatsApp, join the COVID-19 channel by following the directions here.
Ahpra and the National Boards are receiving a range of questions about how they will respond to requests for changes to the way that they register individuals in the context of managing the health sector impacts of COVID-19. They are in the process of considering how regulatory requirements can adapt to emergency health service needs and support continuity of health service delivery, and are planning for different scenarios which may occur.
Keep up to date on developments at Pharmacy Board’s website.
Keep up to date on developments at Ahpra’s websites.
On Wednesday 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization made the assessment that COVID-19 can now be characterised as a pandemic.
Access the latest information and guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO).
PSA is working hard to support the vital role of pharmacists in supporting the immunisation of Australians for COVID-19 once a suitable vaccine is available.
Pharmacists are among the initial priority groups who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine in recognition of their essential role and the inherent risk of exposure, infection and transmission.
The modules cover the core requirements, with additional modules also available for both the AstraZeneca and PfizerBioNTech vaccines.
The Australian Government has committed $200 million to support the safe and effective administration of COVID-19 vaccines by Australia’s community pharmacists.
Expressions of Interest (EOI) for community pharmacy involvement in the administration of COVID-19 vaccinations
EOIs for community pharmacists to join Australia’s COVID-19 vaccinator workforce are now closed.
The EOI process is being managed by the Pharmacy Programs Administrator (PPA) on behalf of the Department of Health. It is anticipated that EOI respondents will be notified of the outcome by late March 2021.
If you have any questions related to the EOI process, PPA has published answers to frequently asked questions on a variety of topics including:
- Eligibility for applications FAQs
- EOI response form submissions FAQs
- COVID-19 vaccine – general FAQs
- COVID-19 vaccine delivery, storage and logistics FAQs
- COVID-19 vaccine administration FAQs
- COVID-19 vaccine funding arrangements FAQs
- COVID-19 vaccine training FAQs
- COVID-19 National Booking System (NBS) and Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) FAQs
Who will be vaccinated in community pharmacies?
Pharmacist vaccinators in selected community pharmacies are expected to administer COVID-19 vaccines when available to Phase 2 priority populations, including:
- adults aged 60-69 years;
- adults aged 50-59 years;
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18-54 years;
- other critical and high risk workers;
- balance of adult population;
- catch-up any unvaccinated Australians from previous phases.
What vaccines will be administered?
Community pharmacists are expected to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine in Phase 2, subject to regulatory approval. It is possible other COVID-19 vaccines will be approved for administration later in the year, however, community pharmacies will not be vaccination sites for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine due to cold-chain requirements.
What are the service requirements?
The COVID‑19 vaccine will be administered in the community pharmacy setting by appropriately COVID‑19 vaccine trained, registered pharmacists, nurse practitioners, nurses and Aboriginal Health Workers under the supervision of an Approved Pharmacist.
To qualify for the Government’s Phase 2 vaccination program, community pharmacies need to:
- undertake mandatory training designed and provided by the Commonwealth;
- provide the vaccine to members of the Phase 2 priority population, initially, continuing on to further priority groups sequentially in accordance with Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine national rollout strategy;
- utilise an appropriately qualified workforce in accordance with jurisdictional requirements to administer the vaccine, which may include nurse practitioners, nurses and Aboriginal Health Workers;
- have the ability to scale-up vaccination workforce and site with potentially short lead times.
- engage with the National Booking System which is being established to provide a single point of entry to people who require vaccination;
- meet the requirements as a COVID-19 vaccination site;
- provide clear and accessible information at the community pharmacy for patients before, during, and after vaccination;
- enter all vaccinations into the Australian Immunisation Register within an appropriate timeframe; and
- be responsible for all on-premises clinical governance.
Each of these criteria should be read carefully in the submission of an EOI. Members can call PSA’s Pharmacist to Pharmacist Advice Line (1300 369 772) if they have practice queries relating to EOI criteria.
Pharmacist vaccinators will need to undergo specific training in the COVID-19 vaccines, which will be the same for all health care workers administering COVID-19 vaccines. This is in addition to meeting the requirements of being a pharmacist vaccinator in your state/territory.
This training is hosted on the Department’s online platform and can be accessed here. Have your Ahpra number handy as you will require this to enrol. The training is being provided free to all authorised COVID-19 vaccination providers.
If you are not already a pharmacist vaccinator, you will need to meet the requirements of becoming a pharmacist vaccinator in your state/territory, including completing an accredited vaccination course.
Other vaccination settings
Pharmacists are able to be employed in other care settings (such as in a general practice medical centre or at a Pfizer Hub) for both the Primary Care EOI and the Surge Workforce arrangements, some of which are currently undergoing active recruitment. Further detail is available in the Australian COVID-19 Vaccine National Roll-out Strategy.
COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca
The TGA provided provisional approval of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca (ChAdOx1-S) on 16 February 2021 for use in Australia in individuals 18 years age and over. Two doses of the vaccine will be required separated by 4 to 12 weeks.
Further information on the TGA’s approach to COVID-19 vaccine approval:
The legal authority for pharmacists to administer vaccines requires state and territory governments to undertake enabling regulatory changes to the list of vaccines pharmacists can administer. The nature of the changes required is dependent on the structure and regulatory mechanisms used will vary between jurisdictions.
The current status for each state and territory is as follows:
|Government position||Legislation/Authorisation + resources|
|ACT||Government supportive – regulation pending|
|NSW||Government supportive – regulation pending|
|NT||Regulatory changes enacted – Legislation passed (18 February 2021)
|QLD||Regulatory changes enacted – DTP updated (2020)|
|SA||Regulatory changes enacted – Vaccine Administration Code updated (18 February 2021)
|TAS||Government supportive – regulation pending|
|VIC||Regulatory changes enacted – new Secretary approval and PHEO issued (20 February 2021)
|WA||Government supportive – regulation pending|
Can pharmacists advertise their COVID-19 vaccination services?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulates the advertising of therapeutic goods in Australia and have produced guidance on how pharmacists and other vaccine providers may lawfully advertise the COVID-19 vaccine without risking penalties for breaching the prohibition on advertising prescription medicines.
Pharmacists must also comply with AHPRA’s Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service and Australian Consumer Law.
Pharmacist immunisers will be a crucial part of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination workforce.
- Community pharmacies will be eligible to become vaccination sites from Phase 2a of Australia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy. Expressions of Interest for community pharmacies to participate in vaccination has now closed.
- Some states and territories will be using pharmacists a part of the Phase 1a and 1b vaccination hub workforce.
- Pharmacists may also play a role in vaccinations in general practices, aged care and other COVID-19 vaccination sites.
The Australian Government Department of Health (through ATAGI) has issued initial advice on which groups should be prioritised for the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
Priority groups for vaccination in Phase 1a and 1b includes health care workers, with the highest priority in Phase 1a for people who work in aged care, and high-risk hospital settings (i.e. emergency departments, ICUs etc.). More details on priority populations can be found in Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine national roll-out strategy.
Find out more and keep up with the latest advice here.
The Australian Government’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Strategy supports access to, and delivery of, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, as soon as they are available. Find out more here.
Researchers and companies across the world are developing potential vaccines and treatments. Find out more and keep up with the latest information here.
The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) is closely monitoring publicly available information on COVID-19 vaccine candidates. They provide a regularly updated summary of the current state of development of COVID-19 vaccines and clinical trials.
For a comprehensive snapshot of COVID-19 vaccine development in Australia and around the world, check back here regularly.
Face masks and personal protective equipment
Current recommendations for pharmacists and the community
|Updated 19 Feb 2021||Are face masks recommended for pharmacists and pharmacy staff?||Is use of masks required in the community by public health orders?||Further information|
|ACT||No, but may be worn if desired||Not at this time||Using masks – latest advice (ACT Health)|
|NSW||Greater Sydney: Yes, amber alert in place
Regional NSW: Standard precautions
|Greater Sydney: Yes, masks must be worn on public transport
Regional NSW: Not at this time
|NSW Health PPE guidance for health care workers|
|NT||No, but may be worn if desired||Not at this time||NT Government: Slowing the spread|
|QLD||No, but may be worn if desired||Not at this time||Queensland Health PPE guidance for healthcare workers|
|SA||Recommended, but not mandated||Not at this time||Public Activity directions notices|
|TAS||No, but may be worn if desired||Not at this time||Face masks – DHHS (Tas)|
|VIC||Yes – Tier 2 PPE for health care workers, including face masks||Yes, masks must be worn indoors & in some outdoor environments consistent with Stay Safe Directions (No. 15)||DHHS PPE guidance for health care workers|
|WA||No, but may be worn if desired||Not at this time||Health WA – Face masks|
Information aligns with current public health advice and is subject to change. In addition to the above, all states and territories have introduced mandatory face mask use an airports and on commercial aircraft.
Some workplaces, such as aged care, may adopt more proactive protocols for use of face masks (e.g. aged care).
Where pharmacists and pharmacy staff wear face masks, they should be medical grade masks, such as type 1 surgical masks. Cloth masks and reusable masks should not be used.
Consumer resources on masks have been prepared by the Australian Commission of Safety and Quality in Health Care:
Pharmacists and pharmacy staff should wear surgical masks rather than reusable cloth masks consistent with all health providers
Community pharmacy and general practice
For pharmacists and pharmacy staff residing and working in locations with community transmission, you should wear a mask at work. 1.5m physical distancing between other people, including other staff, may be difficult to continuously maintain in most community pharmacies and therefore it cannot be guaranteed.
Government directions notices relating to use of face masks in public may extend to pharmacists at work.
he routine use of masks by pharmacists and pharmacy staff residing or practising in areas where community transmission is currently low is not actively recommended at this time, but can be worn if desired or directed by management.
Face masks are an additional protection against transmission of COVID-19. Physical distancing, hand hygiene and staying home if unwell remain essential at all times to prevent transmission. and should be actively practised at all times in pharmacy workplaces.
Hospital pharmacy and aged care
Adhere to advice provided by your health department, state government directions notices and/or employer as applicable
Home medicine reviews
Where interviews are conducted in person, face masks should be worn where 1.5m physical distancing cannot be maintained, where required by government regulation, at preference of the health professional or following a patient request.
Face masks are an additional protection against transmission of COVID-19. Physical distancing, hand hygiene and staying home if unwell remain essential at all times to prevent transmission. and should be actively practised at all times.
If the patient or a household contact is self-isolating or unwell, consider rescheduling HMR or telehealth consultation.
Pharmacists and pharmacy staff should wear surgical masks rather than reusable cloth masks consistent with all health providers.
A number of reputable resources have been compiled to support you in deciding whether to wear a mask. It is recommended that you adapt this information to your personal and professional circumstances with consideration of the current advice and level of community transmission in your area.
The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has compiled an extensive list of frequently asked questions and resources which answers many of the common queries regarding the use of face masks.
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has also developed a list of frequently asked questions and a useful fact sheet aimed at helping people decide whether to wear a mask, and how to use them safely:
Access the latest advice on the use of face masks from the Commonwealth Department of Health below:
Distribution of PPE from the National Medical Stockpile (NMS) for community pharmacies is being coordinated through the Primary Health Networks (PHNs).
Providing PPE is considered a normal cost of business, similar to providing hand sanitiser, hand-washing facilities and maintaining clean premises. However, where commercial supply is not available, pharmacists in primary care can contact PHNs to access free supply of face masks.
PSA continues to work with governments to ensure your PHN is providing you access to masks where needed. If you are having difficult accessing masks from your PHN, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Generally PHNs will provide one box of 50 masks to each community pharmacy. Depending on stock levels you may receive more provided you can show demonstrated need. These masks must not be sold as commercial stock.
The latest information on PPE distribution can be found on the Commonwealth Department of Health website.
Find the details of your local PHN below:
Eye protection is an enhanced precaution which has been recommended in various locations during COVID-19 to protect health care workers against risk of transmission. It is generally recommended in routine care when there is sustained community transmission of COVID-19.
Where eye protection is recommended for health workers where there is a risk of droplet transmission, PSA considers this to apply to the following:
- Point-of-care tests including blood pressure, blood glucose monitoring
- CPAP services (e.g. mask-fitting)
- Provision of first aid
- Wound care
- Some consultation services
- Any other service where there is a risk of contact with body fluids
Pharmacists may also wish to wear eye protection in other situations where there is a risk of contact with body fluids is a risk. When recommended, PSA suggests pharmacists should minimise exposure risk by erring on the side of caution; citing that if staff are directly interacting with the public and there is no screen, or a screen is not practical, eye protection is required.
Notes for using eye protection
- Some face shields are single-use only, while others can be reused
- Reusable googles and face shields must be removed, cleaned and disinfected between use according to manufacturer’s instructions
- Eye protection is additional to the requirement for use of face masks and other infection control measures such as physical distancing, hand hygiene and staying home if sick.
Higher levels of precaution are needed where there is contact with a person who is known or suspected to have COVID-19.
Practical information and advice
Watch a replay of the COVID-19: How to look after yourself webinar recorded on 7 May 2020. PSA members are encouraged to self-record CPD to their CPD plan after viewing this webinar.
Watch a replay of the COVID-19: Your Telehealth Questions Answered webinar recorded on 29 April 2020. PSA members are encouraged to self-record CPD to their CPD plan after viewing this webinar.
Watch a replay of the COVID-19: Pharmacy Layout and Protection webinar recorded on 15 April 2020. PSA members are encouraged to self-record CPD to their CPD plan after viewing this webinar.
Watch a replay of the COVID-19: How to support your immunocompromised patients and staff webinar recorded on 8 April 2020. PSA members are encouraged to self-record CPD to their CPD plan after viewing this webinar.
Watch a replay of the COVID-19: Your Immunisation Questions Answered webinar recorded on 1 April 2020. PSA members are encouraged to self-record CPD to their CPD plan after viewing this webinar.
Watch a replay of the COVID-19: your questions answered webinar recorded on 25 March 2020. PSA members are encouraged to self-record CPD to their CPD plan after viewing this webinar.
PSA has been fielding many member queries seeking practical advice about things like general hygiene precautions and infection control measures. Below are some valuable resources.
The Department of Health has developed this resource explaining the different symptoms you may experience if you have coronavirus (COVID-19), a cold, or the flu.
The Department of Health has developed this COVID-19 infection control training for health workers in all settings, which covers the fundamentals of infection control.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has issued advice on the association between the use of ibuprofen and worse outcomes in patients with COVID-19.
The following practical, interim guidance for pharmacists has been developed by local health authorities:
- Advice for community pharmacists on COVID-19 (NSW Health)
- Alert for community pharmacy pharmacists in charge on COVID-19 (NSW Health)
- Community Pharmacy COVID-19 preparedness update (SA Health)
The following resources are available for pharmacists to display in their pharmacy, or share on social media.
Certain Department of Health resources have also been translated in other languages. See the full range of translated resources here.
PSA has been receiving a significant number of questions from members about the delivery of pharmacist vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The below information has been compiled to support pharmacists in each jurisdiction, with a particular focus on influenza vaccinations given the convergence of COVID-19 and the 2020 influenza season.
Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI)
ATAGI have issued the following advice to support immunisers to meet the anticipated demand as we enter the 2020 influenza season, acknowledging the convergence with coronavirus. It is recommended that pharmacists be familiar with all of these resources.
ATAGI has published Guiding principles for maintaining immunisation services during the COVID-19 pandemic. These guiding principles highlight the importance of maintaining routine immunisation services, and give immunisation providers advice on adapting their procedures and practices to comply with measures in place to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Access this document below:
Practical information and resources for pharmacists
PSA immunisation training
Given the ongoing COVID-19 situation and recent APC announcement around the delivery of immunisation training, PSA have adapted the delivery of our immunisation course to minimise the practical face to face component, where state/territory legislation allows. This was done to ensure the safety of our students, staff and facilitators, give more flexibility in how our students work through and complete the course and prepare pharmacist immunisers for the increased demand for influenza vaccinations in the community.
If you would like to find out more about the options available in your state/territory, please call 1300 369 772 to discuss.
2020 Immunisation resources
The following resources, updated for 2020, are useful for pharmacist immunisers:
Additional information can be found at the Department of Health’s immunisation website, which can be accessed here.
First Aid and CPR training requirements for pharmacist immunisers
PSA has been responding to significant questions regarding:
- the need to obtain First Aid and CPR certificates prior to undertaking PSA immunisation training
- whether pharmacists can continue to vaccinate even though their CPR certificate has expired.
Pharmacists yet to undertake immunisation training
The Australian Pharmacy Council has issued advice on Modification to Standards for the Accreditation of Programs to support Pharmacist Administration of Vaccines during COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the temporary waiving of the requirement for participants to hold a current First Aid certificate and CPR certificate in order to enrol in pharmacist immunisation training.
Pharmacists should note that in order to receive their Statement of Attainment upon completion of the training, they must still provide a current First Aid and CPR certificate within 12 months of completion of the training, and must comply with the relevant state and territory requirements with regard to ongoing First Aid and CPR training before commencing the administration of any vaccinations.
Pharmacists that have previously completed immunisation training
In most states and territories, pharmacists must have a current certificate in both First Aid and CPR, and CPR training must be undertaken annually in order to administer vaccinations. Some jurisdictions however have waived these requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic given current restrictions. A summary of the current requirements can be found below.
It is strongly recommended that any pharmacist who is unsure whether they are authorised check with their local authority before administering any vaccinations.
|First Aid or CPR training requirement||Relevant resource/s|
|ACT||During the COVID-19 emergency and for 6 months following the first aid and CPR refresher training requirement for accredited pharmacist immunisers has been temporarily waived.|
|NSW||No change – CPR must be updated annually; First Aid every 3 years|
|QLD||During the declared public health emergency related to COVID-19, pharmacists who have completed first aid training since October 2016 and CPR training since October 2018 will be considered to hold a current Australian recognised qualification in first aid.
pharmacists who have completed an accredited vaccination training program, but are unable to complete first aid training themselves due to the restrictions related to COVID-19, must ensure that there is at least one other member of staff on the premises who has completed first aid training since October 2016 before undertaking a vaccination.
|WA||To enable safe and lawful practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, when vaccines are being administered (including during the period of post-vaccination monitoring), at least one pharmacist or other staff member, who is currently competent to provide CPR and first aid, must be present and available.
If a pharmacist’s certification has recently expired in 2020 and they are unable to renew, they need personally assess whether they will be able to confidently provide CPR/First Aid in the event of a serious medical emergency associated with vaccination.
Minimum age for pharmacists delivered influenza vaccinations
|≥ 10 yrs||≥ 10 yrs||≥ 16 yrs||≥ 10 yrs||≥ 10 yrs||≥ 10 yrs||≥ 10 yrs||≥ 10 yrs|
Pharmacist vaccinations outside of pharmacy
|Yes||Yes||Hospital||Public hospital||Yes||Yes||Hospital, Depot or outreach||No|
During COVID-19, pharmacists have been subject to unacceptable abuse and aggression from patients when declining supply of medicines to enforce supply limits and new restrictions aimed at maintaining the integrity of the supply chain and supporting the safe use of medicines. Difficulty in sourcing adequate stock of influenza vaccines and managing patient expectations has also proven challenging.
PDL has provided advice which supports guidance provided by PSA in relation to declining requests for salbutamol, hydroxychloroquine and influenza vaccines where supply is not appropriate or legal, or stock availability is limited.
Following notifications, PDL has recently provided practice advice to help pharmacists responding to requests for medicines affected by recent regulatory changes:
- inform patients of the regulatory changes during the supply process
- explain the reasons for these changes and the limitations the changes place on pharmacists
- discuss with patients the factors which led to your decision to agree to or decline supply
- provide recommendations to facilitate continuity of care (e.g. seeking medical review for consideration of bronchospasm in a person not diagnosed with asthma).
In the case of pharmacists responding to requests for influenza vaccines:
- If stock is not specifically allocated then dispensing of a valid prescription for the vaccine should occur. Declining to supply may be considered unethical.
- If the vaccine is unavailable, this should be communicated clearly to ensure no misunderstanding (e.g. “there is no stock available for dispensing at the moment”)
- The client could be asked if they would like to be contacted once a vaccine becomes available
- It is inappropriate to advise clients that unallocated vaccines are being prioritised for those clients vaccinated within the pharmacy.
While recognising this may take additional time, PDL has emphasised the importance of good communication in reducing the likelihood of confusion of allegations of discrimination. PSA joins with PDL in strongly urging all pharmacists to document any decision to decline supply of medicines on any occasion.
PSA acknowledges the important work that pharmacists are doing on the front line. It is important during events such as the current COVID-19 pandemic that pharmacists take time to care for themselves and debrief with colleagues. To support you through this critical time we’ve collated some valuable COVID-19-related resources to keep you healthy, strong and resilient.
Pharmacists’ Support Service offer support related to the many demands of being a pharmacist in Australia. If you require support, contact the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910 (8.00 am to 11.00 pm AEST).
On 30 March 2020, the Pharmacists’ Support Service announce the availability of grants to support the mental health and well-being of Australian pharmacists and pharmacy staff who having been impacted by bushfires and are now facing the double whammy of COVID-19. Read more here.
This Way Up has provided access to free online tools and practical ways to protect your mental health through the COVID-19 pandemic. They have developed guided workbooks with practical tips and strategies, a ‘Staying on Track’ audio guide and resource pack, and are currently offering free access to their self-paced online courses.
Services and resources
Head to Health is the Australian Government’s digital mental health gateway bringing together information, apps, online programs, online programs and phone services from Australia’s most trusted mental health organisations.
MindSpot is the Australian Government’s free online mental health clinic for Australian adults who are experiencing difficulties with anxiety, stress, depression and low mood.
Beyond Blue is dedicated to promoting good mental health, creating change to protect everyone’s mental health and improve the lives of individuals, families and communities affected by anxiety, depression and suicide.
Black Dog Institute is dedicated to understanding, preventing and treating mental illness, creating a world where mental illness is treated with the same level of concern, immediacy and seriousness as physical illness.
On Wednesday 18 March 2020 the Federal Government announced a range of restrictions to aged care with the following people unable to enter any aged care facility:
- People who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days
- Those who have been in contact with a confirmed cased of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- Those with fever or symptoms or acute respiratory infection and symptoms
- Those who have not been vaccinated against influenza (from May 1).
These restrictions have been maintained. During periods of enhanced local restrictions (e.g. lockdowns) further limits on visitors may be imposed.
Facilities must reduce the risk of transmission to residents, including limiting visits and the number of visits daily subject to local health advice and directions.
Visits should be conducted in a resident’s room, outdoors or in a specific area designated by the facility, rather than communal areas where the risk of transmission to other residents is greater.
PSA is aware of member concerns regarding the need to obtain patient signatures on PBS prescriptions and the associated risk of virus transmission to patients and/or pharmacy staff.
The Commonwealth Department of Health advises the following for pharmaceutical benefits. Pharmacists should:
- still ask the patient or agent to acknowledge receipt of supply where practical
- use their professional judgement and implement processes to manage risks, particularly for vulnerable people.
When a signature is not practical, pharmacists will not need to certify the prescription. This is an interim arrangement that is temporarily in place until 31 March 2021, and will be reassessed thereafter.
PSA is aware of member concerns regarding the need to obtain patient signatures on Prescription Record Forms (PRFs) and PBS Safety Net applications where there may be associated risk of virus transmission to patients and/or pharmacy staff.
Services Australia has advised that when obtaining a signature from the applicant or agent is not practical, they will accept and continue to process these types of claims during the pandemic.
This is an interim arrangement that is temporarily in place until 30 September 2020, and will be reassessed thereafter.
Information on pharmacy programs and regulatory issues
Limits on dispensing and sales of prescription and over-the-counter medicines
PSA is aware of member concerns that patients are pressuring them to dispense unsafe amounts of medicines. This is unacceptable, and we are dedicated to protecting frontline pharmacists doing their best in these challenging times.
Together with the Government, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the National Pharmaceutical Services Association, the bold decision was made in March 2020 to limit the dispensing and sale of certain medicines.
These mitigation measures introduced last year, including purchasing limits and labelling requirements for over-the-counter supplies of salbutamol, remain in place. The current COVID-19 situation in Australia is continuously evolving, and PSA has been advised the TGA continues to actively review the need for these requirements.
Since Thursday 19 March 2020:
- Pharmacists have been required to limit dispensing of certain prescription products to 1 months’ supply at the prescribed dose, and sales of certain over-the-counter medicines to a maximum of one unit per purchase
- In addition, pharmacists have been strongly encouraged to limit dispensing and sales of all other medicines to one months’ supply or one unit
- Supply of salbutamol inhalers is subject to additional restrictions, assessment and recording requirements.
From 1 July 2020, the TGA medicine shortages taskforce advised that pharmacies can now return children’s paracetamol liquid formulations to front-of-counter, as demand for these products has eased. (Note: The requirement in WA and QLD to store Pharmacy Medicines in a place that prevents physical/direct access by the public (‘behind the counter’) remains unchanged.) However, one unit limits on sales remain in place and pharmacists are encouraged to use signage to indicate to customers that purchases of these products will be limited to one unit.
The TGA has also approved temporary supply of an alternative, unregistered paediatric paracetamol product to support continuing access to children’s paracetamol formulations for Australian consumers. The alternative brand, Tylenol, must be stored behind pharmacy counters as the strength differs from other brands available in Australia. Pharmacists will confirm dosing instructions with parents and caregivers for these products.
Read the full TGA advice here.
To help explain these changes to customers, PSA has developed a sign that can be used in your pharmacy.
Update 25 September 2020 – Continued Dispensing emergency arrangements to continue until 31 March 2021
On 31 March 2020, the Federal Health Minister announced a temporary expansion of the PBS Continued Dispensing initiative to support continuity of essential medicine therapy for Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic. The extension has been extended to 31 March 2021.
Continued dispensing allows consumers to access standard PBS pack sizes of essential medicines in an emergency where there is an immediate therapeutic need and accessing a prescription is not practical. Under PBS Continued Dispensing, there is no requirement for a person to obtain a prescription to cover the supply or PBS subsidy of medicines supplied under this provision.
The relevant Commonwealth legislative instrument can be found here.
All jurisdictions have enacted the necessary regulatory changes to enable Expanded Continued Dispensing. In all cases supply of medicines under the expanded arrangements must be consistent with these regulations in your practising state or territory.
To support pharmacist in navigating these changes relevant to your practice jurisdiction PSA has prepared a Summary of COVID-19 regulatory changes.
The following resources also provide helpful support for pharmacists:
The Department of Health has prepared a series of FAQs for pharmacist, patients and prescribers
Services Australia provides an Education guide on the Continued Dispensing initiative
To further support pharmacists, PSA has prepared the following FAQs:
Does this arrangement apply in my state or territory?
All jurisdictions have enacted the necessary regulatory changes to enable Expanded Continued Dispensing. Detailed information and supporting resources for each jurisdiction can be found in the summary tables here.
Are there guidelines that support me to appropriately supply medicines under this initiative?
PSA’s Guidelines for the continued dispensing of eligible prescribed medicines by pharmacists provide support to pharmacists on how to appropriately supply medicines under this initiative and pharmacists must be familiar with and adhere to these requirements when supplying PBS medicines under this temporary emergency measure. PSA has also published an addendum to the guidelines to support pharmacists in assisting patients with these continued dispensing arrangements in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What other options should I consider before dispensing a medicine under the Continued Dispensing arrangements?
The Australian Government has recently introduced measures to help reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 and provide protection for patients and health care providers. These include:
- new temporary MBS telehealth items which are available to providers of bulk billed telehealth services for a wide range of consultations with any Medicare eligible Australians;
- special arrangements to enable prescribers to provide a pharmacy with a digital image (via fax, email or text message) of a prescription for a vulnerable patient who has had a telehealth consultation, which can be dispensed by the pharmacy. The patient or prescriber would then be required to supply the pharmacy with the paper prescription within 15 days; and
- the fast-tracking of implementation of electronic prescribing (ePrescribing) for up to 80% of general practices and community pharmacies by May 2020.
These alternative arrangements for obtaining a valid script and other options as outlined in PSA’s guidelines should be considered before using the Continued Dispensing arrangements.
A patient needs her previously supplied medicine, which was for an increased quantity (Authority item). Am I allowed to supply the increased quantity under the expanded Continued Dispensing arrangement without breaching the prescription medicine supply limits introduced on 19 March 2020?
You may supply the increased quantity instead of the standard PBS quantity provided it is permitted by your relevant state or territory legislation. The medicine supply limits introduced on 19 March were to prevent the supply of quantities that are not clinically required for an individual.
Can I supply any medicine through the expanded continued dispensing arrangements?
Medicines listed in the relevant Commonwealth legislation may be supplied provided you are complying with the state or territory legislation relevant to your professional practice. For example, you may not be permitted to supply a Schedule 8 medicine without a valid prescription in your state or territory. Note that medicines supplied under Section 100 Special Supply Arrangements (e.g. HIV medicines available through the Highly Specialised Drugs Program) are not available under the Continued Dispensing arrangements.
A patient in our local area experienced hardship with the January bushfires and has now been confirmed as a positive case of COVID-19. Can the patient continue to access their medicines through this expanded continued dispensing arrangement?
If the patient obtained a medicine through continued dispensing arrangements in the last 12 months, they will not be eligible under the current arrangement. You should discuss with the patient options available to them including other emergency supply provisions.
Update 25 September 2020 – Digital Image Prescriptions to continue until 31 March 2021
As an interim arrangement prior to the widespread implementation of ePrescribing, a Special Arrangement has been put in place to support patients to access prescription medicines via telehealth arrangements while confined to their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. This enables supply of certain PBS medicines to be made based on an image of the prescription provided to the pharmacist by the prescriber.
This updated instrument also includes a waiver for a patient signature acknowledging receipt if it is impractical to obtain, and includes waiver for the pharmacist’s signature on prescription record forms as long as the record is not handwritten.
Pharmacists should check advice from their specific state or territory health department to determine which aspects of this Commonwealth measure have been incorporated into their local legislation. PSA is continuing to closely work with Commonwealth, state and territory departmental staff and will update this page as information comes to hand.
To support pharmacist in navigating these changes relevant to your practice jurisdiction PSA has prepared a Summary of COVID-19 regulatory changes.
The following fact sheets provide further information and are available for prescribers, dispensers, and consumers.
To support pharmacists with this change, PSA has prepared the following FAQs. These are based the best available information currently available to the organisation.
Why has this Special Arrangement been implemented?
This Special Arrangement has been implemented by the Commonwealth as an immediate and interim option to enable patients to access necessary medicines via telehealth services while they are confined to their homes. Progressive deployment of electronic prescribing in a steady and managed approach is expected by September 2020.
What does this Special Arrangement allow?
Under this Special Arrangement, prescribers can provide a digital image or copy of a person’s prescription following a telehealth consultation to the patient’s pharmacy of choice via fax, email or text message. A digital image should include the prescription barcode where applicable.
Is this Special Arrangement available in every state and territory?
All jurisdictions have enacted the necessary regulatory changes to enable dispensing of prescriptions from a digital image
In all jurisdictions, the supply of medicines under this special arrangement must be consistent with the regulations in your practising state or territory. To support pharmacist in navigating these changes relevant to your practice jurisdiction PSA has prepared a Summary of COVID-19 regulatory changes.
Does the prescriber still need to send the original paper prescription to the pharmacy?
No, when the prescriber has transmitted a telehealth consultation prescription to the pharmacy as a digital image or copy, there is no need for them to send the original paper prescription.
Does the prescriber’s signature still need to be provided on the digital prescription?
The prescription must be signed as normal or using a valid digital signature.
Can a prescriber send a digital image featuring all of the pharmaceutical benefits they are seeking to have dispensed for the patient?
The prescriber must create a clear copy of the entire prescription (a prescription may contain multiple pharmaceutical benefits) and send to the patient’s pharmacy of choice, including the prescription barcode where applicable. Multiple prescriptions cannot be sent in a single digital image.
How do I claim for a prescription that I’ve received as a digital image?
Pharmacists can dispense and claim from the digital image of the prescription sent through by the prescriber.
Do I need to print out a copy of the prescription from the digital image?
Yes, the process for dispensing a telehealth prescription must follow the same process as with a standard paper prescription. This includes having a hard copy of the telehealth prescription to attach the relevant dispensing labels to.
Does the prescriber need to send through an image of both the ‘Pharmacist/patient’ copy and the ‘Medicare/DVA copy’?
Prescribers have been requested to provide an image of both the pharmacist/patient copy and the Medicare/DVA copy to the pharmacy. However, pharmacists can dispense from the image even if they only receive the pharmacist/patient copy if there is sufficient information for dispensing.
Can I defer a supply of a pharmaceutical benefit from a digital image of a prescription?
Yes, a digital image can contain the supply of one or more pharmaceutical benefits and allows an approved supplier (pharmacist) to defer the supply of one or more pharmaceutical benefits on a digital image of a prescription or a copy of a prescription. The words “original supply deferred” must be written/included on the copy of the prescription or print out of the digital image of the prescription.
What do I do with repeat authorisations issued from a prescription received as a digital image?
Pharmacists must create a repeat authorisation and attach it to a printed copy of the digital image. This should be retained in the dispensing pharmacy for subsequent supply of the medicine, and pharmacists are advised to explain this to the patient prior to supply where practical.
What are the audit and compliance requirements under this measure?
The pharmacist is required to retain the following documents for two (2) years from the date of supply for audit and compliance purposes:
- first and only supply on a prescription (and CTS claim is made) – the digital image, print out of the digital image or the copy of the prescription
- supply on a repeat authorisation or deferred supply authorisation (and CTS claim is made) – the repeat authorisation or deferred supply authorisation
- after the supply when there are no remaining supplies – the digital image, print out of the digital image or the copy of the prescription.
The prescriber is required to retain the legal paper prescription (or an electronic copy) for a period of two (2) years from the date of the prescription.
Are any medicines excluded from this arrangement?
Yes, medicines in Schedule 8 and medicines in Schedule 4 and Appendix D of the Poisons Standard are not part of this arrangement and must be supplied under the current prescribing arrangements. Pharmacists must also check particular arrangements within their jurisdiction as other medicines may also be excluded.
Is this option only available to prescribers or can patients send their existing paper prescriptions by this method too?
This measure is only available to prescribers. Patients with existing paper prescriptions or repeats will need to ask someone to visit the pharmacy on their behalf with the paper prescription/s. If this is not possible, patients can obtain a new prescription/s from their doctor via a telehealth consultation and ask the doctor to send a digital image of their prescription/s to their chosen pharmacy.
How will the patient receive their medicine if they are in self-isolation?
Does the patient need to sign for the receipt of a prescription?
Where practical, patients should continue to sign for receipt of PBS benefits. If it is impractical for the patient to sign the prescription acknowledging receipt of supply, a relaxation of this requirement is in place until 31 March 2021. All other compliance requirements remain unchanged.
How long is this interim arrangement in place?
This interim arrangement was extended in September 2020 and will now cease on 31 March 2021.
In March 2020, new limits were introduced to the supply of salbutamol inhalers, including changes to the Schedule 3 entry for salbutamol. The TGA subsequently made minor amendments to the Schedule 3 salbutamol listing effective 1 October 2020.
Salbutamol inhalers may be supplied as a Pharmacist Only Medicine:
- for the relief of bronchospasm in patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or
- for acute prophylaxis against exercise-induced asthma and other stimuli known to induce bronchospasm, or
- for the treatment of a person with a record of previous supply from a pharmacy, or
- to persons authorised under State or Territory law to use or supply salbutamol in the practice of their profession (e.g. medical practitioners), or
- for use in institutional first aid (e.g. schools, workplaces).
The entry specifies supply is limited to one primary pack of salbutamol for each person being treated by the pharmacist.
These changes to the Poisons Standard are designed to ensure availability of salbutamol inhalers for patients with a genuine need for their asthma condition and have been revised following feedback that restrictions implemented in March 2020 had impeded access to those with an urgent therapeutic need.
PSA’s Guidance for provision of a Pharmacist Only medicine: Short-acting beta2-agonists (salbutamol and terbutaline) will shortly be updated to reflect these changes. This can be accessed by PSA members only or is available in the digital version of APF which can be accessed here.
To support pharmacists with this change, PSA has updated the following Q&As.
What legislative changes have come into force for salbutamol?
On 1 October 2020, the Poisons Standard was updated to amend the Schedule 3 entry for salbutamol.
What has changed?
The Schedule 3 entry for salbutamol has been amended to permit pharmacists to supply salbutamol inhalers:
- for the relief of bronchospasm in patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or
- for acute prophylaxis against exercise-induced asthma and other stimuli known to induce bronchospasm
- for the treatment of a person with a record of previous supply from a pharmacy.
Supply is limited to a maximum of one pack per patient.
Salbutamol continues to be allowed to be supplied by pharmacists for use in institutional first aid (e.g. schools, workplaces) or to persons who are authorised under State or Territory law to possess it or supply it under lawful practice of their profession (e.g. medical practitioners) without the limit of one pack per patient.
How do I respond to patients and carers who ask why the supply of salbutamol inhalers is being limited even though they have been using this medicine for many years?
The Australian Government made changes to regulate inappropriate supply of salbutamol and to ensure ongoing access for people with diagnosed respiratory conditions. The earlier changes have since been reviewed to allow less restricted access to all people with a reasonable therapeutic need. The peak bodies representing pharmacists worked with the Government on reviewing these measures to ensure people who need the medicines most can access them.
What can be used to confirm a patient meets the requirements to supply?
There are a number of ways a pharmacist could check to ensure the supply of a salbutamol inhaler to a person as a Pharmacist Only Medicine meets the requirements stipulated. For example:
- previous supply is confirmed through the person’s dispensing history or My Health Record
- confirmation that the person has a current asthma management plan
- patient description of symptoms is consistent with bronchospasm for people living with asthma or COPD
- observation of patient experiencing bronchospasm
- observing via photo or in person a physical inhaler or asthma medicine dispensed in their name.
A person says they have heard that they should now avoid using their corticosteroid inhaler, and want to just rely on using their salbutamol (Ventolin/Asmol) inhaler. What advice should I give?
If your doctor has prescribed inhaled corticosteroid controller medicine for your asthma, you should continue to use it (as prescribed) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Does the supply of salbutamol need to be recorded?
Yes. To support ongoing availability of salbutamol to those who need it, the PSA, Department of Health, pharmacy wholesalers and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia jointly endorsed additional controls on the supply of salbutamol, including a requirement that supply is recorded. In some jurisdictions this has been a regulatory requirement for many years, and is described in PSA’s short-acting beta agonist guidance document (PSA member-only access).
In addition to supporting the ongoing availability of salbutamol, recording supply supports patients through:
- creating a record at the pharmacy, and accessible via My Health Record (where available) to inform clinical decisions across healthcare teams
- supporting evidence requirements for future access to salbutamol
- providing patients with customised and individualised instructions for use on the label.
Do the 1 October 2020 changes mean pharmacists no longer need to verify a medical diagnosis of a respiratory condition?
Pharmacists have an obligation to establish a therapeutic need for all Pharmacist Only Medicines supplied to patients. While the scheduling criteria have been modified for salbutamol, many of the ways that pharmacists confirmed medical diagnosis between March–September 2020 remain useful in establishing therapeutic need.
A patient’s description of bronchospasm symptoms or a pharmacist’s observation of breathing difficulties also satisfy the scheduling criteria and can be used as evidence to establish therapeutic need.
Updated TGA advice regarding hydroxychloroquine use in treating COVID-19
On 27 May 2020, the TGA updated their advice based on the latest international data. At this time the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 is strongly discouraged, including in hospital in patients. The only exception should be patients who are enrolled in a clinical trial with appropriate safety monitoring protocols in place and oversight by a Human Research Ethics Committee. This advice is in the context of the number of currently hospitalised COVID-19 patients in Australia being very low.
Information on the hydroxychloroquine scheduling change
Effective 24 March 2020, new restrictions have been placed on the prescribing of hydroxychloroquine. These amendments have now been incorporated into the Poisons Standard.
Initial treatment of a patient with hydroxychloroquine is now restricted to specialists in any of the following specialties:
- intensive care medicine
- paediatrics and child health
- emergency medicine
- dental practitioners registered as a specialist in oral medicine*
*Dental practitioner specialists in oral medicine may prescribe hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of conditions such as ulcerative oral lichen planus.
This amendment is intended to support the continued availability of hydroxychloroquine during the public health emergency due to COVID-19 and to prevent its inappropriate use in Australia.
Adjustments to the PBS listing for hydroxychloroquine
Changes have also been made to the PBS listing for hydroxychloroquine to help minimise the risk of PBS prescriptions being supplied to patients accessing the medicine for unapproved uses. This is also intended to ensure continued access for patients who rely on this medicine for approved uses.
From 1 May 2020, the general unrestricted benefits listing was split into separate initial and continuing treatment listings for the TGA-approved uses of malaria and autoimmune disorders. Under both listings, the prescribing health professional is required to seek PBS authority (streamlined). Under the initial PBS listing, initial therapy must be authorised by a medical practitioner of any of the specialities defined in the clinical criteria as specified in the Poisons Standard.
This change means that pharmacists will be required to ensure that any relevant prescriptions that they dispense have a valid streamlined authority code, which must be valid at the date of prescribing.
To support pharmacists with this change, PSA has prepared the following FAQs.
What legislative changes have come into force for hydroxychloroquine?
On 24 March 2020, and 3 April 2020, new Commonwealth legislative instruments came into force. These amendments have now been incorporated into the Poisons Standard.
What has changed?
Additional Appendix D controls are now included in the Poisons Standard and apply to the prescribing of hydroxychloroquine. These specify that initial treatment of a patient with hydroxychloroquine must be authorised by:
- a medical practitioner specialist in any of the following specialties: dermatology, intensive care medicine, paediatrics and child health, physician, and emergency medicine.
- a dental practitioner specialist in the speciality field of oral medicine (this field is concerned with the diagnosis, prevention and predominantly non-surgical management of medically-related disorders and conditions affecting the oral and maxillofacial region, in particular oral mucosal disease and orofacial pain as well as the oral health care of medically complex patients .
Does that mean general practitioners cannot prescribe hydroxychloroquine?
GPs cannot initiate treatment with hydroxychloroquine for a patient. However, GPs can authorise (prescribe) continuing supply of hydroxychloroquine for a patient (after specialist initiation).
A patient presents a new prescription for hydroxychloroquine. How do I know if I can dispense it?
Pharmacists should confirm whether the prescriber is a specialist. Calling the prescriber or using the AHPRA register are possible ways to verify that the prescriber is recognised in one of the listed specialties outlined in Appendix D.
What happens if a patient presents a new prescription for hydroxychloroquine from their GP?
Pharmacists should consider information from the patient’s dispensing history or My Health Record for prior dispensing of hydroxychloroquine. In the absence of any dispensing history, pharmacists should ascertain with the patient whether the medicine is for ongoing therapy.
What if a patient presents a repeat prescription for hydroxychloroquine?
A pharmacist can dispense a valid repeat prescription for hydroxychloroquine.
Does this change apply in every state and territory?
PSA understands these changes are being adopted by every jurisdiction.
Why were these changes necessary?
Hydroxychloroquine has been used for prevention and treatment of certain types of malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions. Dental practitioner specialists in oral medicine may prescribe hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of conditions such as ulcerative oral lichen planus. Recent studies indicated hydroxychloroquine may have potential in the treatment of COVID-19. Pharmacists also reported increased prescribing of hydroxychloroquine, and this raised concerns of a potential shortage of these medicines in Australia. This legislative outcome is to ensure availability of supply of hydroxychloroquine for those patients who need it and to prevent inappropriate use.
What specialties fall in the category of Physician?
The Medical Board of Australia refers to ‘Physician’ as any of the following specialties:
- Clinical genetics
- Clinical pharmacology
- Gastroenterology and hepatology
- General medicine
- Geriatric medicine
- Immunology and allergy
- infectious diseases
- Medical oncology
- Nuclear medicine
- Respiratory and sleep medicine
What has changed with the PBS listing for hydroxychloroquine?
On 1 May 2020 the PBS listing for hydroxychloroquine was amended to help minimise the risk of PBS prescriptions being supplied to patients accessing the medicine for unapproved uses and to ensure continued access for patients who rely on this medicine for approved uses.
As part of this change, the general unrestricted benefits listing was split into separate initial and continuing treatment listings for the TGA-approved uses of malaria and autoimmune disorders. Under both listings, the prescribing health professional is required to seek PBS authority (streamlined). Under the initial PBS listing, initial therapy must be authorised by a medical practitioner of any of the specialities defined in the clinical criteria as specified in the Poisons Standard.
On Friday 17 April and Monday 20 April 2020, the Commonwealth Department of Health announced some important changes to the Home Medicines Review (HMR), Residential Medication Management Review (RMMR), Quality Use of Medicines (QUM), MedsCheck and Diabetes MedsCheck programs.
Telehealth medication reviews
In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists will temporarily be able to deliver medication reviews to eligible patients via telehealth arrangements from 21 April 2020. This includes Home Medicines Reviews, Residential Medication Management Reviews, MedsChecks and Diabetes MedsChecks.
This will enable pharmacists to deliver essential medication management consultations for those in home isolation and vulnerable patients wishing to limit their potential exposure to COVID-19, and also limit the potential exposure of pharmacists to COVID-19.
Response to interim report
In response to the Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality, a number of changes are being implemented, effective 21 April 2020.
Follow up services
HMRs and RMMRs now include the option for pharmacists to conduct follow up services within nine months of the initial patient consultation. Under the updated program rules, up to two follow up services may be conducted if required due to a patient’s clinical status, the need to assess outcomes of the recommendations from an initial medication review report and the implementation of a medication management plan. It is expected that these will follow a similar, but less complex, process to the initial patient consultation.
Referrals by non-GP medical practitioners
HMRs and RMMRs will now be able to be referred by other medical practitioners, not just GPs. This change will allow specialists in aged or chronic care to refer for a medication review where a GP may not be available.
Services Agreements with multiple service providers
Facilities will now be able to enter into service agreements with multiple RMMR service providers. This will allow for more access and patient choice when receiving medication review services.
Guidelines and tools
Access the PSA’s updated Guidelines for Comprehensive Medication Management Reviews and Guidelines for Quality Use of Medicines Services below:
Access the Pharmacy Program Administrators website to see the latest program rules and other information relevant to these programs below:
The Department of Health has partnered with PSA in developing resources for pharmacists conducting medication reviews via telehealth. These resources are for pharmacists conducting service via telehealth, and to assist patients receiving these service. Access the tools below:
To provide further details, and to support pharmacists with these changes, PSA has prepared the following FAQs:
Am I now able to conduct all HMRs, RMMRs, MedsChecks and Diabetes MedsChecks via telehealth?
Not exactly. This temporary arrangement has been put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to enable pharmacists to conduct HMRs, RMMRs and MedsChecks via telehealth arrangements for any patient/s that meet the relevant eligibility criteria.
What are the eligibility criteria for conducting a HMR, RMMR MedsCheck or Diabetes MedsCheck via telehealth?
For a HMR, RMMR, MedsCheck or Diabetes MedsCheck to be conducted via telehealth the patient must meet the following eligibility criteria (in addition to the eligibility criteria for the relevant program):
- Meets the current national triage protocol criteria for suspected COVID-19 infection after consultation with either the national COVID-19 hotline, state COVID-19 hotlines, a registered medical or nursing practitioner or COVID-19 trained health clinic triage staff;
- people aged over 70;
- identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50;
- people with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised; or
- parents with new babies and people who are pregnant.
Are telehealth medication reviews only able to be conducted using video?
Medication reviews by video are the preferred approach for substituting face-to-face consultations. However, if video is not available, audio-only medication reviews can be conducted via telephone.
What video platforms can be used to conduct telehealth consultations?
The Program Rules and relevant professional guidelines do not contain an approved list of telehealth platforms. AHPRA and the Department of Health have reminded health professionals delivering telehealth services that many free platforms do not have adequate encryption for delivery of health services and paid subscriptions to these services may be needed.
The Department of Health notes telehealth can be provided through video calling apps and software such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Duo, GoToMeeting and others
How many follow up services can I conduct?
If required and clinically necessary, up to TWO follow up services can be conducted after each initial consultation (HMR or RMMR) as follows:
- A first follow up consultation can be conducted no earlier than one month and no later than nine months after the initial consultation.
- A second follow up consultation can be conducted no earlier than one month after the first follow up and no later than nine months after the initial consultation.
It is expected that these follow up services will follow a similar, but less complex process than the initial patient interview.
Refer to the updated Guidelines for Comprehensive Medication Management Reviews for information on clinical indicators and the relevant Program Rules on the Pharmacy Programs Administrator website for information on timing of follow ups.
Do I need a separate referral to conduct a follow-up service for a HMR or RMMR?
No, the HMR or RMMR service consists of the initial patient interview, clinical assessment, initial medication management report and up to two follow up services where required.
An indication of whether or not a follow up is recommended should be included in the original medication management report provided to the referrer, and the decision on whether a follow-up is required should be made by the accredited pharmacist in collaboration with the referrer.
What if a subsequent HMR or RMMR is conducted before the follow up occurs?
In the event that any subsequent referrals are issued and an additional initial consultation is conducted and claimed, no follow up service(s) can be undertaken on the first HMR/RMMR service.
Can I conduct follow up services on a HMR or RMMR conducted prior to these Program Rules being updated on 21 April 2020?
Yes, any initial service undertaken after 21 September 2019 may be eligible to receive a follow up service. Refer to the updated Guidelines for Comprehensive Medication Management Reviews for information on clinical indicators and the relevant Program Rules on the Pharmacy Programs Administrator website for information on timing of follow ups.
Are follow up services included in my monthly HMR cap?
No, only the initial HMR review is counted towards the monthly cap. Follow up services are considered part of the HMR service and are not counted towards the monthly cap.
What are the fees for conducting follow up services?
Under the HMR program the approved service provider can claim the following payments:
|Description||Fee (per patient)|
|Provision of a HMR Service||$222.77|
|First follow up service||$111.39|
|Second follow up service||$55.70|
Under the RMMR program the approved service provider can claim the following payments:
|Description||Fee (per patient)|
|Provision of a RMMR Service||$112.65|
|First follow up service||$56.33|
|Second follow up service||$28.16|
How do I claim for follow up services?
Follow up services are claimed through the Pharmacy Programs Administrator under either the HMR or RMMR program depending on which type of initial consultation was conducted.
As with HMR and RMMR services, claims for follow up services must be submitted by the end of the next calendar month after the follow up was conducted.
The Australian Government is implementing a temporary measure from 1 May 2020 to allow flexibility around PBS restrictions for some medicines to support continued treatment. Prescribers will be able to lodge a request for exemption with Services Australia (Medicare) where they believe a requirement (such as pathology or point-of-care testing) may put patients at increased risks of COVID-19. This request will need to accompany the authority request for continuing therapy.
A list of eligible PBS medicines is available here.
Pharmacists are encouraged to reassure patients concerned about pathology requirements of available flexibility and refer them on to their treating doctor.
The Department of Health advises the temporary measure will be repealed by 30 September 2020.
Update 25 September 2020 – Home Medicines Service to continue until 31 March 2021
On Wednesday 11 March 2020, the Australian Government announced the COVID-19 Home Medicines Service that will enable vulnerable people and people in self isolation to order their PBS and RPBS prescriptions remotely and have their medicines home delivered to reduce their potential exposure to COVID-19.
The Australian Government will provide funding until 31 March 2021, to support and protect the most vulnerable members of our community from potential exposure to COVID-19 by way of a fee per delivery payable to pharmacies for the home delivery of PBS and RPBS medicines, thereby removing the need for a patient to visit a pharmacy.
More information about the COVID-19 Home Medicines Service, including the program rules, eligibility criteria, FAQs and to access the claiming portal, follow the links below.
As of September 2020, more than 1.1 million deliveries have been made by more than 4,600 pharmacies through this service.
Update 25 September 2020 – Australia Post’s Pharmacy Home Delivery Service also to continue until 31 March 2021
Australia Post has announced the extension of its Pharmacy Home Delivery Service until 31 March 2021. The initiative allows vulnerable members of the community to receive medication and other essential supplies (under 500grams) through Australia Post’s Express Post network, once a month, and pharmacies can receive the full cost back through government rebate. The initiative incorporates Australia Post’s contactless delivery in line with current COVID-19 guidelines.
See the announcements from Australia Post and information on how you can access the service below.
For further information on this service, contact Australia Post on email@example.com.
In response to the increased demand for hand sanitisers and subsequent shortages, PSA made representations to the TGA to ensure pharmacists were able to provide hand sanitisers to Australian consumers and patients. As a result, certain hand sanitisers with specific requirements have been excluded from the operation of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the ‘Act’).
The TGA has prepared further advice for pharmacists on hand sanitiser manufacture, supply and advertising, and advice for consumers on buying and using hand sanitisers. This information can be accessed below:
Details of regulatory changes are summarised through the Q&As below.
What legislative changes have come into force?
In late March, the following two Commonwealth legislative instruments came into force – Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods – Hand Sanitisers) Determination 2020 and Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Excluded Goods – Hand Sanitisers) Determination 2020.
In May 2020, the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Excluded Goods – Hand Sanitisers) Determination (No. 2) 2020 came into force. These amendments are intended to further safeguard public health.
What has changed?
Specific hand sanitisers have been excluded from TGA regulation with strict requirements specified on:
- ingredients in the final formulation
- manufacturing practices
- advertisement, and
- presentation of goods for supply.
What are the requirements that need to be met?
|Ingredients||Final formulation must only contain:
Must not contain any other active or inactive ingredients, including colours, fragrances or emollients.
|Concentration||Concentration of ethanol / isopropyl alcohol must be verified by testing samples of each batch using gas chromatography, alcoholmeter, hydrometer, or other chemical analysis of equivalent or greater accuracy.|
|Manufacture||Must be manufactured under sanitary conditions using equipment that is well maintained and fit for purpose.|
|Record keeping||Must keep records of the manufacture with regards to each of the items above.|
|Labels||The final hand sanitiser product can only be presented for supply using front and back labels as shown below, which may be combined or co-located (text in square brackets needs to be finalised by the pharmacist/manufacturer) with exceptions that the label may:
Hand sanitisers must not be presented for supply in a way that it is likely to be mistaken for or confused with food or beverages (e.g. must not use inappropriate containers such as foil sachets, pouches with a spout or those with a pop top lid).
A copy of this label can be downloaded here.
|Advertising||The products may be advertised in a manner consistent with information contained on the labels, and including information on where the product may be purchased, and the associated price.|
Do I have to comply with PSA’s Professional Practice Standard on Compounding?
No, manufacture of the specified products is not considered compounding. However, the specific requirements and conditions outlined in the table must be met.
Does this mean these products are unregulated?
No, the goods specified in the Determination are excluded for the purposes of the Act but will continue to be regulated as consumer goods under Australian Consumer Law by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. This arrangement may be revisited in the future as circumstances change.
Who can these hand sanitisers be supplied to?
Provided the exact ingredients and quantities in the final formulation and other requirements are followed, the formulation is permitted for use in healthcare facilities as well as for consumer use.
Can I manufacture and supply other types of hand sanitisers or hand rubs?
Hand sanitisers are regulated either as cosmetics (general consumer products) or therapeutic goods depending on what they contain, what they claim to do and how they are used. Further information is available here.
If adequate supply of hand sanitisers is available, is it now the preferred option for good hand hygiene?
No, washing hands with soap is still considered to be the most effective hand hygiene practice, however, hand sanitisers also play an important role in helping to reduce the spread of microorganisms.
Australia’s two leading Pharmacist Recruitment Specialists have come together to support pharmacists through provision of a locum hotline service:
Both businesses will have dedicated experienced recruitment consultants ready to advise you on how you can assist and also provide you with the latest information regarding any work-related practices.
Emergency Locum Service
The Emergency Locum Service supports community pharmacies in rural and remote areas through direct access to pharmacist locums in emergency situations. The program rules have been updated with changes related to COVID-19.
In the event that a pharmacist is:
- isolating themselves at home on the advice of a medical practitioner, for confirmed COVID-19; or
- meeting the current national triage protocol criteria for suspected COVID-19 infection after consultation with either the national COVID-19 hotline, state COVID-19 hotlines, a registered medical or nursing practitioner or COVID-19 trained health clinic triage staff.
The maximum placement duration has also been extended to fourteen consecutive days. Find out more below.
Regarding self-isolation for interstate travel
LocumCo is currently seeking clarification regarding locums travelling between states and the need for isolation. PSA will provide further information here and on social media when it is available.
For more information contact PSA at firstname.lastname@example.org
Clinical information and advice
NPS MedicineWise has prepared a dedicated website to support both health professionals and patients to be medicinewise during COVID-19.
Information for health professionals
NPS MedicineWise is maintaining a regular update on emerging evidence on hydroxychloroquine and COVID-19.
Information for patients
NPS MedicineWise has also published FAQs for patients on COVID-19 and the use of certain medicines and conditions.
Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care have released a position statement on COViD-19 medicines management and medicine-related issues. They have also released a document detailing the medicines currently under investigation in the treatment of COVID-19. Access both documents below:
The team at Veterans’s MATES have prepared a number of COVID-19 resources to support Veteran’s and the health professionals that provide care to them. Titled Keeping well during COVID-19, these resources can be accessed below:
International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)
The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) has published comprehensive COVID-19 guidance for pharmacists.
A National taskforce has been established bringing together peak professional bodies across Australia whose members are providing clinical care to people with COVID-19.
They are undertaking continuous evidence surveillance to identify and rapidly synthesise emerging research in order to provide national, evidence-based guidelines for the clinical care of people with COVID-19. The guidelines address questions that are specific to managing COVID-19 and cover the full disease course across mild, moderate, severe and critical illness.
These are ‘living’ guidelines, updated with new research in near real-time in order to give reliable, up-to-the minute advice to clinicians providing frontline care in this unprecedented global health crisis.
On 17 June 2020, the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce issued a statement on the release of results of dexamethasone arm of the UK RECOVERY Trial. Read the full statement here.
NPS MedicineWise has prepared a dedicated website to support both health professionals and patients to be medicinewise during COVID-19
NPS MedicineWise has also published FAQs for patients on COVID-19 and the use of certain medicines and conditions.
Access trusted health information and advice for patients and the community
The Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line (1800 171 866)
Some older people are vulnerable to COVID-19 but less connected to the internet and in need of ways to access information for their circumstances. The Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line provides information, support and connection to Older Australians.
Older Australians, their families, friends and carers can call the support line if they:
- would like to talk with someone about the COVID-19 restrictions and its impact on them
- are feeling lonely or are worried about a loved one
- are caring for someone and need some information or a listening ear
- need help or advice about changing the aged care services they are receiving
- need help to access new care services or essential supplies such as shopping
- are concerned about themselves, a friend or family member living with Dementia
- would like to arrange a one-off or regular wellbeing check for themselves, or someone else.
The Older Persons COVID-19 Support line is available on 1800 171 866 between 8.30am – 6.00pm AEST weekdays.
The Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line is a joint initiative of COTA Australia, Dementia Australia, National Seniors and OPAN, supported by funding from the Australian Government.
From the National President
Tuesday 5 May 2020
Protecting pharmacists from abuse
Tuesday 5 May 2020
Changes to Medicine Review Services
Friday 24 April 2020
Digital Image Prescribing
Friday 24 April 2020
Digital Image Prescribing
Tuesday 21 April 2020
Violence against pharmacists
Tuesday 14 April 2020
Digital Image prescribing and PPE
Tuesday 7 April 2020
PSA will continue to provide updates as we receive information. To speak with one of our team, including the member-only Pharmacist-to-Pharmacist advice line, please call PSA on 1300 369 772 or send us an email.
The Australian Government has established a Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 for anyone seeking information on coronavirus.