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:


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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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