COVID-19 | Medicines dispensing emergency measures extended

22 March 2021
Kelly Griffiths, Partner, Melbourne

At the commencement of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government introduced a range of measures to take the pressure off Australia’s health care system, such as the introduction of TeleHealth and E-Prescribing.

Another measure was to extend the Continued Dispensing rules to enable pharmacists to supply medicines without prescription to certain patients. These emergency measures were first introduced in response to the 2019-2020 Bushfires and extended due to COVID-19. Previously, these continued dispensing rules only applied to oral contraceptives and lipid lowering medications (statins). Pharmacists must continue to apply the guidelines issued by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia in relation to continued dispensing when making a determination to supply a medicine.

Prior to supplying a medicine under these measures, the pharmacist must be satisfied that:

  • the patient has an immediate need for the medicine before a prescription can be obtained;
  • circumstances prevented the patient from accessing a prescriber (face-to-face or via telehealth) to obtain a new prescription;
  • it is not possible to obtain an ‘image based script’ or approval for an ‘owing prescription’ from a prescriber;
  • the medicine is eligible for supply (including under relevant state/territory legislation);
  • the patient has been supplied the medicine in the last six months and their condition is stable;
  • the medicine has not been supplied under Continued Dispensing arrangements to the patient by any pharmacy within the 12 months before the requested supply; and
  • it is safe and appropriate for the patient to obtain the medicine.

These measures were due to expire at the end of March 2021. The Government has announced that these measures will be extended until 31 December 2021, having regard to the continued pressure placed by COVID-19 on the health system.


For details of all our COVID-19 tips and updates, visit the Gadens COVID-19 Hub.


Authored by:

Kelly Griffiths, Partner

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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