Active ingredient prescribing has landed!

Active Ingredient Prescribing has landed Feb 21

From 1st February 2021, prescribers are required to include the active ingredient on all PBS and RPBS prescriptions. A transition period has been granted for pharmacists to allow for supply if a prescription does not comply with the changes and the prescriber is unable to provide an amended prescription. This transition period, which ceases on 31st July 2021, does not apply to prescribers.

Within this period, if a pharmacy receives a prescription that does not meet active ingredient prescribing requirements, the pharmacist should contact the prescriber and request the prescription be re-issued.

If the prescriber is unable to issue a compliant prescription for any reason, the pharmacy may supply and claim for the medicine as normal under the PBS or RPBS without penalty.

From 1 August 2021, new prescriptions that do not meet active ingredient prescribing requirements cannot be dispensed as PBS prescriptions and will need to be reissued in alignment with active ingredient prescribing requirements or dispensed as private prescriptions.

However, non-compliant prescriptions generated before 31st July 2021 but presented after the grace period will still be able to be supplied and claimed until their expiration.

Exceptions include:

  • handwritten prescriptions
  • paper-based medication charts in residential aged care settings
  • medicines with four or more active ingredients, and
  • a small number of items specifically excluded from active ingredient prescribing.

PDL has already received a small number of reports and one error relating to this change. Members are reminded to read prescriptions carefully as prescribing software is likely to present the order of active ingredients alphabetically which might be different to previous computer generated or electronic prescriptions.

One noted example is Targin tablets which have been routinely prescribed as oxycodone + naloxone. Prescribing software programs are likely to generate Targin as naloxone + oxycodone which could easily lead to confusion or error. There is a report the strengths of the ingredients may still be presented in the previous format of oxycodone/naloxone.

Other examples reported include insulin prescribed without a brand or delivery device specified, hormone combinations including oral contraceptives and HRT without brand or form specified.

Please make your dispensary team aware of this recent change and remind them to carefully interpret prescriptions when dispensing and checking.

Members are encouraged to discuss this recent change with patients so that they understand that their prescriptions might look different. Members are also reminded that patients have a right to choose their preferred brand when presenting their prescriptions and please ensure generic substitution does not occur if the prescriber has specifically stated this on the prescription.

PDL asks pharmacists to report any inconsistencies or errors to PDL or other representative organisations for prompt action with the relevant agencies.


Some useful links include:


For immediate advice and incident support, call PDL on 1300 854 838 to speak with one of our Professional Officers. We are here to support our pharmacist members 24/7, Australia-wide.