Medicines and poisons

Pharmacists

This page has information for pharmacists about prescription requirements, Schedule 8 (S8) medicines and the pharmacist immunisations.

Pharmacists must familiarise themselves with the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2012 and regulations and the Code of Practice S8 Substances.

To get the S8 Code of Conduct see medical practitioners.

COVID-19 advice

Employer pharmacists are legally obligated to minimise risks to employees in the course of business operations.

During this unprecedented time of COVID-19 disease, employers and managers must ensure the health and safety of all employees and customers.

Read the advice for community pharmacies infection control guide for more information.

Unrestricted S8 substances

Prescribers must notify Medicines and Poisons of the supply of unrestricted S8 substances such as morphine and pethidine if supply exceeds eight weeks, or if other circumstances arise that are in the Code of Practice.

Prescribers also need a special authorisation if they want to prescribe for more than an approved number of patients.

Compliance is the responsibility of the prescriber, and pharmacists are not expected to routinely monitor these matters as a part of dispensing.

However pharmacists may contact Medicines and Poisons if they have particular queries or concerns.

Restricted S8 substances

These categories of S8 substances have the following supply restrictions applied to them.

Stimulants

Stimulants include dexamfetamine, lisdexamfetamine and methylphenidate.

General medical practitioners and nurse practitioners can co-prescribe in conjunction with a specialist paediatrician, psychiatrist, neurologist, physician or registrar in training in one of these disciplines.

Prescribers are required to obtain authorisation before prescribing these substances.

Pharmacists are not required to check whether a prescriber has obtained authorisation, however they may contact Medicines and Poisons with queries or concerns.

Opioid substitution

This includes buprenorphine, buprenorphine/naloxone and methadone 5mg/mL liquid.

Medical practitioners and nurse practitioners providing opioid substitution need to be specially trained and accredited by the Chief Health Officer.

Medicines and Poisons can provide information on whether prescribers are accredited.

Prescription requirements

The S8 Code has these requirements for prescriptions of controlled drugs.
  • prescriptions for unrestricted S8 substances such as morphine are valid for six months, with dispensing of one month’s supply at any one time
  • prescriptions for restricted S8 psycho-stimulants (dexamphetamine, lisdexamfetamine and methylphenidate) are valid for six months
  • prescriptions for restricted S8 substances buprenorphine, buprenorphine/naloxone and methadone 5mg/mL are valid for three months. They must be dispensed within three days of the date of issue or the start date (if different)
  • according to the S8 Code the following items must be written on all S8 prescriptions, in addition to usual requirements for prescriptions:
    • the date of birth of the patient
    • the type of preparation i.e. liquid or sublingual tablets
    • doses in words and numbers for buprenorphine, buprenorphine/naloxone and methadone
    • quantities in words and numbers for unrestricted S8 substances and psycho-stimulant medication.
  • a prescription must be written in ink, not in pencil or another easily erasable material
  • if there are any changes to the details, the initials of the person who issued the prescription and the date the change was made must appear beside each change
  • prescribers must sign prescriptions in their handwriting unless they are using an electronic prescribing system
  • prescribers of buprenorphine, buprenorphine/naloxone and methadone 5mg/mL liquid, also need to include the name of the dispensing pharmacy as well as a detailed dosage regimen and any takeaway privileges.

Interstate Prescriptions

Dispensing from prescriptions written by prescribers based interstate is permitted for Schedule 4 medicines.

Prescriptions for Unrestricted Schedule 8 medicines written by interstate prescribers can be dispensed in the NT in line with Regulation 7A of the regulations which outlines that a pharmacist must verify:

  1. the validity of the prescription – The prescription must meet all legal requirements that apply to prescriptions written in the NT
  2. the identify of the person presenting the prescription

Prescriptions for Restricted Schedule 8 medicines that are psychostimulants (methylphenidate, dexamphetamine, lisdexamphetamine) medicines written by interstate prescribers can be dispensed in the NT where the prescriber would normally be endorsed to initiate treatment in the Territory. This includes:

  • paediatricians
  • psychiatrists
  • neurologists
  • physicians

The prescription will often include the prescriber’s qualifications. Otherwise prescriber qualifications can be checked on the AHPRA website.

National Poisons Standard

The latest version of the national Poisons Standard including the Standard for Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (SUSMP) is available via the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) website:

Publications

Forms
Drug Loss Discrepancy Report Form
Information sheets
Requirements of Prescriptions for S8 Substances DOCX (60.0 KB)
Supplying Without a Prescription
Continued Dispensing Initiative
Disposal of S8 Substances
Alcohol substitution products fact sheet for mouthwash and essence flavourings
Methylated spirits fact sheet
Guidance on dispensing for Pharmacists

Related information

Read more about scheduled substances in the Clinical Advisory Committee (CLAC).

For information on the following topics go to medicines and poisons safety:

  • therapeutic goods recalls
  • buying medicines online.

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Last updated: 19 April 2022

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