National Medical Stockpile

The National Medical Stockpile (the Stockpile) is a strategic reserve of drugs, vaccines, antidotes and protective equipment for use in the national response to a public health emergency which could arise from natural causes or terrorist activities. Items are stockpiled to increase Australia’s level of self-sufficiency during a time of potential high global and domestic demand and service delivery pressures.

Page last updated: 14 May 2014

The Stockpile is intended to supplement holdings of drugs and protective equipment held by state and territory health authorities to support continuity of service provision. The Stockpile also holds a limited supply of highly specialised drugs in an emergency that may not be available elsewhere within the Australian pharmaceutical supply system.

The Secretary of the Department of Health and the Chief Medical Officer of Australia have authority to approve a Stockpile deployment on request from state or territory authorities. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee of the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council (AHMAC) plays a key advisory role in considering management of the Stockpile within the context of broader health emergency response arrangements.

The Stockpile is kept in various strategic locations around Australia and specific details regarding the content of the Stockpile is not released publicly for security reasons.

National Medical Stockpile Reform

On Tuesday 13 May 2014, the Australian Government announced funding of $15.4 million over four years for reform activities as part of the Reinforcing Australia’s Health Protection Budget Measure.

The reform agenda includes:

  • the negotiation of a new national stockpiling agreement between the Commonwealth and states and territories to revise roles and responsibilities and to determine pre-agreed rules for emergency access to Stockpile inventory;
  • changes to deployment arrangements involving the pre-positioning of small reserves of inventory with front line health services to reduce operational risk and logistical requirements during emergencies;
  • transition to a ‘Prime Vendor’ model of operation in 2015-16, involving the outsourcing of the day-to-day management of the Stockpile under the strategic direction of the Department; and
  • implementation of a new four year strategic planning cycle for the Stockpile which will include more regular reporting on inventory and capabilities; and
  • piloting of new inventory supply arrangements, including broader application of stock rotation and right to buy inventory arrangements (where cost effective and with due consideration of risk).

The reforms will reduce waste and duplication, cut red tape in an emergency and improve the cost effectiveness of national stockpiling arrangements.

For more information on the reform activities please contact the Department at Stockpile Ops.