Access to medicines

Access to medicines depends on the type of medicine. Some medicines are only available through pharmacies and hospitals, while others are available off the shelf in shops. We have measures in place to help ensure Australians can access the medicines they need, and manage shortages.

How we ensure access to medicines

We work with state and territory governments, the health and medicines industry, consumers and the media – under the National Medicines Policy – to help provide equal and affordable access to medicines for Australians.

On a national level, we provide affordable access to some prescription medicines for Australians through the:

For medicines to be listed on the PBS, RPBS and LSDP, they must first undergo a health technology assessment.

The PBS safety net helps reduce costs for Australians who require a large number of medicines each year, regardless of income.

You can view the medicines available under the PBS in the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits. We regularly update the schedule with new listings and the latest changes.

You can also search our Medicine Status Website to monitor the progress of medicines that have been submitted to be listed on the PBS

Read more about the cost of medicines and what we’re doing about medicines.

Pharmacy access to medicines

We ensure Australians can access the full range of PBS medicines within 24 hours through their community pharmacy, wherever they live.

We do this by funding pharmaceutical wholesalers to supply the medicines to pharmacies anywhere, regardless of the relative cost of supply.

The companies currently eligible are:

  • Australian Pharmaceutical Industries (national distributor)
  • Barrett Distributors (state distributor)
  • Clifford Hallam Healthcare (national distributor)
  • Friendly Society Medical Association, also known as National Pharmacies (state distributor).
  • Sigma Healthcare (national distributor)
  • Symbion (national distributor)

Read more about the Community Service Obligation for Pharmaceutical Wholesalers Funding Pool.

Where you can get medicines

Where you get your medicines depends on the type of medicine, and includes:

  • pharmacies for prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines
  • supermarkets for some over-the-counter medicines and complementary or alternative medicines
  • directly from your health practitioner, if you’re getting care in a clinic or hospital
  • online – but make sure you’re buying from a legitimate Australian pharmacy.

Buying medicines online

Before medicines can be supplied in Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) assesses them to help ensure they are safe and do what they claim.

While buying medicines online can be cheaper and convenient, overseas websites might not be safe. The TGA has not assessed these medicines, and you could lose your money, break the law or damage your health.

Watch this video about buying medicines online.

Accessing COVID-19 medicines

We closely track worldwide research into COVID-19 treatments. The TGA assesses their safety and efficacy, before approving their use in Australia as quickly as possible without compromising its comprehensive evaluation process.

Read about:

Supporting adequate supply of medicines

Medicine shortages can occur for various reasons, such as shortages of raw material, transport issues, factory quality control issues, temporary factory closures and natural disasters. 

The National Medical Stockpile is a strategic reserve of medicines, vaccines, antidotes and personal protective equipment for national health emergencies. 

The TGA publishes information about national medicines shortages, so that consumers and health practitioners can make plans for managing medicines during a shortage.

Read more about what you can do if your medicine is in short supply.

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