Alternative access arrangements
You can access some medicines through other means under Section 100 of the National Health Act 1953. This includes:
- some restricted medicines for chronic conditions
- chemotherapy medicines
- botulinum toxin treatments
- growth hormones
- in vitro fertilisation treatments
- opiate dependence treatments
- medicines for people who live in remote areas without pharmacies.
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.
Some registered health practitioners can access unapproved medicines not included in the ARTG in certain situations under the:
- Special Access Scheme – for a single patient with a particular condition
- Authorised Prescriber Scheme – for a class of patients with a particular condition.
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.
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.
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 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:
- accessing an overseas medicine approved under section 19A
- substituting medicines
- accessing an unapproved medicine under the Special Access Scheme
- importing medicine under the Personal Importation Scheme.
Read more about how to access medicines during a shortage.
Government workers overseas
- taking them out of Australia when travelling
- having them sent from Australia.
To do this, you must: