Other ways to access medicines

There are many ways to access medicines if there are no pharmacies where you live, or if they are unavailable in pharmacies, in short supply, or not listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) or the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).

Alternative access arrangements

You can access some medicines through other means under Section 100 of the National Health Act 1953. This includes:

Medicines not on the PBS or ARTG

If you have private health insurance, you might be able to access medicines not listed on the PBS or RPBS through your extras cover policy. The amount depends on your health fund and policy. 

We support people who need medicines not listed on the PBS, RPBS or ARTG in various ways:

Special access

Some registered health practitioners can access unapproved medicines not included in the ARTG in certain situations under the:

Medicinal cannabis

While the TGA regulates the access of medicinal cannabis, most medicinal cannabis products are considered as being 'unapproved' medicines. 'Unapproved' medicines have not been assessed by the TGA for safety, quality or effectiveness.

You can access medicinal cannabis with a prescription from a health practitioner who will need to apply to the TGA through the Special Access Scheme or Authorised Prescriber Scheme.

Your prescriber might also need to apply to the relevant state and territory health department. 

Once you have a prescription, go to your pharmacist, who will order it in for you – this could take a day or 2. 

The laws for prescribing medicinal cannabis are different in each state and territory. Prescribers should understand the laws that apply in their state or territory.

The Office of Drug Control regulates the cultivation, production and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products for commercial cultivators, manufacturers and industry.

Life-saving medicines

The Life Saving Drugs Program provides fully subsidised access to expensive essential medicines for eligible patients with rare and life-threatening conditions.

The program currently funds 16 medicines that help to treat 10 rare conditions.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are an important part of the testing process to determine whether new treatments work and are safe to use. Patients can be some of the first to access new and emerging unapproved medicines through clinical trials.

Importing unapproved medicines

In some circumstances, you can import a 3-month supply of unapproved medicines into Australia for personal use, under the Personal Importation Scheme.

There are customs requirements to do this, and you might need a permit.

During medicine shortages

We have measures in place to manage medicine shortages. If your medicine is in short supply, check with your health practitioner or pharmacist as a first step. There are several ways to get medicines during a shortage, including:

Read more about how to access medicines during a shortage.

Government workers overseas

Employees of the Australian Government or a state or territory government working overseas – and their dependants – can access PBS or RPBS medicines by:

To do this, you must:

Last updated: 
23 June 2022
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