Victorian government acts to ensure people affected by bushfires can access essential medicines without a prescription

Victorian residents affected by the bushfire crisis will now be able to access a standard PBS or manufacturers’ pack quantity of their Prescription Only Medicines (Schedule 4) without a prescription following gazettal of a public health emergency order today, a move strongly welcomed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA).


Under the public health emergency order, Victorian pharmacists will be able to supply people affected by the bushfires with standard PBS quantities and smallest standard pack sizes of non-PBS medicines without a prescription when where a pharmacist is satisfied there is an immediate therapeutic need and obtaining a prescription is impractical. In most cases, this represents a months’ supply of that medicine.


Mallacoota pharmacist Emmanuel Chifefe Manzai said, “Until today in Victoria, if a pharmacist is satisfied that it is not possible for a patient to get a prescription for their chronic medicines the pharmacist is only allowed to give three days’ supply as an emergency.”


“I’m pleased this archaic regulation has been removed as it does not help patients especially in disasters like we are currently experiencing.  Patients are stuck here for weeks; giving them three days’ supply is just ridiculous. Mr Manzai continued “I’m pleased Victorian authorities have followed what the NSW government has done, by allowing pharmacists to dispense a PBS-quantity without a script in areas affected by the bush fires”


PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman welcomed the announcement, noting “Victorian pharmacists working in affected areas, have stood up and gone above and beyond in supporting the health of their communities in this crisis. But up until now, the inability to supply more than three-days’ supply of medicines to people has been an unacceptable barrier to accessing and providing care to people in these fire affected zones.”


“This announcement means people separated from their prescription medicines or prescriptions will be able to access their regular medicines needed for managing chronic health conditions, such as blood pressure, depression, diabetes, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”


As part of the order, pharmacists must record that the sale or supply was made under the public health emergency order.  The order does not apply to Schedule 8 medicines (Controlled Drugs).


“We thank Minister Mikakos for responding to this urgent need and arranging this public health order.” Associate Professor Freeman said “We believe this is the first time such a public health order has been gazetted in Victoria.”


“PSA are keen to work with the Minister and her department after this crisis subsides to review how this provision could become engrained in regulation to ensure people are able to access medicines when the next emergency strikes.”


“PSA will be following up with all other states and territories to ensure these provisions can be enacted quickly should the time arise this bushfire season.”


“The next step is also to enable access to PBS subsidy for medicines supplied in emergencies so patients do not have the shock of unexpected out-of-pocket expenses when accessing the regular medicines during a crisis.”


The special provision takes effect immediately and is in force until midnight 1 April 2020 unless revoked.


PSA has distributed guidance to Victorian pharmacists this afternoon to communicate the order and guidance on the Victorian Government website at https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/public-health/drugs-and-poisons


Media contact: PSA Media, 0487 922 176


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