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Ensuring continued access to affordable PBS medicines for those impacted by bushfires

A joint release with the Hon. Stuart Robert MP, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services, announcing emergency changes to the PBS to ensure bushfire affected people have access to the medicines they need.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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General public

The Morrison Government is implementing temporary, emergency measures to ensure people affected by the current bushfire situation are able to continue to receive Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) subsidised medicines when a doctor’s prescription is not immediately available. 

These changes will help people with ongoing medical needs including those with asthma, lung disease, diabetes, heart disease and mental illness, who may have lost their valid prescription or are unable to see their usual doctor due to bushfires.

“Continued Dispensing” arrangements will be extended to PBS medicines that can be supplied through community pharmacies.

Through Continued Dispensing arrangements, subject to the pharmacists’ professional decision, people are able to obtain their usual PBS medicines without a prescription from their doctor, for the usual PBS cost.

The PBS co-payment is currently $41 for general patients and $6.60 for concessional patients, for medicines that may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars per script without subsidy. 

Under state and territory legislation, pharmacists may supply a limited amount of a medicine to a patient without a prescription if there is an urgent need and their doctor cannot be contacted.

However, patients in this circumstance would have had to pay the full cost of this medicine, and without the respective co-payments counting towards their PBS safety-net threshold.

These temporary changes to Continued Dispensing arrangements will allow pharmacists to give patients up to one month’s supply of the PBS listed medicine, without a script, once in a twelve month period depending on which State or Territory they are in.

The supply of medicines under these arrangements is subject to a strict set of professional guidelines.

The patient must previously have been prescribed this medicine and the pharmacists must be satisfied it is urgently needed.

These temporary arrangements will come into effect from 13 January until 31 March 2020, and will apply to most medicines generally supplied by community pharmacies. 

Doctors and pharmacists across areas affected by fires are to be commended for their efforts to ensure patients can obtain the medicines they need in emergency circumstances.

These changes will provide more support and flexibility for patients who need access to their medicine.

I would like to thank pharmacists, doctors, pharmaceutical wholesalers and pharmacy software providers for their support in implementing these changes. 

Medicines dispensed under State and Territory government emergency provisions to date will have valid PBS subsidy claims honoured.

Further information on these changes will be provided on the Department of Health website via and information resources will be made available for community pharmacists and patients. 

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