Supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits during COVID-19

This article applies to suppliers of pharmaceutical benefits. The changes are a temporary measure in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and are due to end on 30 September 2020.

National Health (COVID-19 Supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits) Special Arrangement 2020 (Cth)

The National Health (COVID-19 Supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits) Special Arrangement 2020 (Cth) (the Special Arrangement) commenced on 26 March 2020, making temporary amendments to the National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Regulations 2017 (Cth) (the PB Regulations).

Background

The Special Arrangement has been introduced so that the supply of pharmaceutical benefits to patients at risk of COVID-19, or patients who have been prescribed a pharmaceutical benefit by a health professional who is at risk of COVID-19 is ensured.  Provisions relating to pharmaceutical benefits supplied on paper-based prescriptions before the paper-based prescription is presented to an approved pharmacist or approved medical practitioner supplying the pharmaceutical benefit have been modified by the Special Arrangement, as outlined below.

Modification of regulation 44 of the PB Regulations

Regulation 44 of the PB Regulations provides for the supply of a pharmaceutical benefit on the first presentation of the prescription.  The following modifications to regulation 44 apply to the supply of a pharmaceutical benefit to a patient at risk of COVID-19 based on a paper-based prescription from a normal consult or a paper-based prescription resulting from a telehealth or phone attendance on or after 20 March 2020.

Under the modified regulation 44, an approved pharmacist or approved medical practitioner is permitted to supply the pharmaceutical benefit to a person on the first presentation of a prescription if they are provided with a digital image of the prescription or an image of a prescription that shows the requirements of regulation 40(1), (2) and (2A) (Writing prescriptions – prescriptions other than medication chart prescriptions) have been complied with by the PBS prescriber.  The pharmaceutical benefit may also be supplied on first presentation where a PBS prescriber has advised the approved pharmacist or approved medical practitioner of the prescription details, or where a PBS prescriber has provided the approved pharmacist or approved medical practitioner a copy of the prescription.

Under the modified regulation 44, for authority prescriptions, a supplier may supply a pharmaceutical benefit only in the following circumstances:

  •  if the pharmaceutical benefit prescribed has a relevant streamlined authority code:

    • the PBS prescriber informs the supplier of that code before the pharmaceutical benefit is supplied; or

    • the digital image of the prescription displays the code; or

  • both:

    • the Minister or the Chief Executive Medicare has notified the PBS prescriber (orally or by other means) that each relevant authorisation will be given; and

    • the PBS prescriber informs the supplier of that notification before the pharmaceutical benefit is supplied.

Importantly, PBS prescribers prescribing under the modified regulation 44 are required to provide the relevant pharmacist or medical practitioner with the pharmacist/patient copy and the Medicare/DVA copy within 15 days after the day of supply of the pharmaceutical benefit and to ensure its receipt.  Where the PBS prescriber has advised an approved pharmacist or approved medical practitioner of the prescription details under the modified regulation 44, in the case of a paper-based prescription, the prescriber must also ensure that the pharmacist/patient copy and the Medicare/DVA copy of the prescription are received by the relevant pharmacist or approved medical practitioner within 15 days of the supply.

Notably, the modifications made to regulation 44 of the PB Regulations do not apply to the following:

  • a pharmaceutical benefit if:

    • the pharmaceutical benefit would be supplied under section 44 by an approved pharmacist; and

    • the relevant prescription must be in writing under a law in force in the State or Territory in which the premises, at or from which the pharmaceutical benefit would be supplied, are located; or

  • a pharmaceutical benefit if:

    • the pharmaceutical benefit would be supplied under section 44 by an approved medical practitioner; and

    • the relevant prescription must be in writing under a law in force in the area in respect of which the medical practitioner is approved.

Any endorsements or notations that need to be made to the prescription must be included as soon as practicable after the approved pharmacist or approved medical practitioner receives the pharmacist/patient copy and the Medicare/DVA copy.

Modification of regulation 57 of the PB Regulations

It should be noted that the Special Arrangement has modified regulation 57 of the PB Regulations (Receipt of pharmaceutical benefit) to provide that the requirements of regulation 57 do not apply to the supply of a pharmaceutical benefit where it is not practicable for the approved supplier to obtain written acknowledgement of the receipt of the pharmaceutical benefit from the person to whom it has been supplied.

Conclusion

Organisations should ensure that their approved pharmacists and approved medical practitioners are aware of the temporary measures put in place to enable the effective and convenient supply of pharmaceutical benefits during the current COVID-19 pandemic.


Contact

For further information please contact the Law Compliance team:

Phone: 1300 862 667

Email: info@lawcompliance.com.au

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