Active ingredient prescribing

01 Feb 2021

Karen Stephens

by Karen Stephens

Pharmacy medication in hands

Prescribing medication by its active ingredient will become mandatory from 1 February 2021. The active ingredient must be listed first and can be followed by the brand name if the prescriber believes it is clinically necessary.

The goal of this legislation is to help people understand what medicines they are taking, reducing the risk of accidental multiple doses, and to increase the uptake of generic medicines, thereby reducing cost to patients and the PBS.

Exceptions include: 

  • handwritten prescriptions
  • paper based medication charts in the residential aged care sector
  • medicinal items with four or more active ingredients
  • other items excluded for safety or practicality reasons.

Prescribing software will require an update and may have some changes to workflows. 

Explaining this change to patients will help prevent confusion, especially for those on long-term or multiple medications.  

A transition period, until 31 July 2021, will allow pharmacies who receive a non-compliant prescription to request the prescriber to reissue it. If reissue is not possible, the pharmacist may still supply and claim for the medicine under the PBS or RPBS. 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, or dispensed as private prescriptions.

Further information is available from:


Not yet subscribed to receive our medico-legal blog? Scroll down to subscribe and stay connected.

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.



My Career Journey with Dr Nick Coatsworth

Dr Nick Coatsworth is an expert in health policy, public administration and a practising infectious diseases physician. He held a national role in the Australian response to COVID-19 as Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Australia, becoming one of the most recognised medical spokespeople during the pandemic. Nick engaged the Australian community through a variety of media platforms most notably as the spearhead of the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Dr Micheal Gannon, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, sits down with Dr Nick Coatsworth to discuss Nick's medical career journey, and what insights and advice he has for junior doctors. MDA National would like to acknowledge the contributions of MDA National staff, Members, friends and colleagues in the production of the podcast and note that this work is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under applicable copyright law, you may not reproduce the content of this podcast without the permission of MDA National. This podcast contains generic information only, is intended to stimulate thought and discussion, and doesn’t account for requirements of any particular individual. The content may contain opinions which are not necessarily those of MDA National. We recommend that you always contact your indemnity provider when you require specific advice in relation to your insurance policy or medico-legal matters. MDA National Members need to contact us for specific medico-legal advice on freecall 1800 011 255 or email We may also refer you to other professional services.


09 Jun 2022

Career complications and contending with uncertainty

Among the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for junior doctors is how to respond to medical training impacts and career uncertainty. In this podcast, Dr Caroline Elton (a psychologist who specialises in helping doctors)and Dr Benjamin Veness (a Psychiatry registrar) share advice for coping with medical training and career delays, disruptions and unknowns.


10 Aug 2020