Changes on the way for opioid prescribers

29 May 2020

Janet Harry

by Ms Janet Harry

Doctor holds and reads bottle of medication while sitting at his computer

Changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listings for opioid medications will come into effect on 1 June 2020. The changes apply to all PBS opioid medications, including tramadol and paracetamol/codeine.

To be eligible for treatment with opioids, the PBS says patients will need to be unresponsive or intolerant, or have achieved inadequate relief of their acute pain, to maximum tolerated doses of non-opioid treatments.

There will be restrictions on the quantity which can be prescribed, with packs of immediate release opioids reduced to two to three days’ supply with no repeats for non-chronic pain. Patients who require long-term treatment of chronic pain with opioids will have access to larger packs and repeat prescriptions where they meet the new restriction requirements. GPs must refer patients to a pain specialist or other prescriber if the patient is expected to be on opioids for more than 12 months.

There are also new authorisation requirements and eligibility criteria for high strength opioids such as morphine and fentanyl.

These changes have been made in response to the number of deaths and hospitalisations due to prescription opioids and are part of wider ranging measures including:

  • education and awareness campaigns
  • changes to clinical guidelines
  • ongoing prescription and compliance monitoring.

MDA National’s Prescribing Opioids interactive online education activity can be accessed here.

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This blog contains general information only. We recommend you contact your medical defence organisation or insurer when you require specific advice in relation to medico-legal matters.



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