Extension of the National Health (COVID-19 Supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits) Special Arrangement 2020

25 Mar 2021

The National Health (COVID-19 Supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits) Special Arrangement 2020 has been extended until 30 September 2021.  

The Special Arrangement was developed as part of the COVID-19 National Health Plan as an interim measure while Electronic Prescribing capability was being implemented to provide a patient who is confined to their home access to necessary medicines through ‘Image Based Prescription for Medicine Supply’. This measure supports telehealth by enabling the supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines from a digital image of a prescription. It also allows the supply of PBS medicines without acknowledgement of receipt of supply.  

Under this Special Arrangement, following a Medicare-subsidised telehealth consultation, a prescriber can create a digital image of a legal paper prescription. With the patient’s permission, the prescriber may forward the copy of the prescription to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice by email, text message or fax.  

The extension to the Special Arrangement continues to: 

  • temporarily allow the supply of a pharmaceutical benefit without acknowledgement from the patient wherever it is impractical for them to sign the prescription (e.g., where the patient is concerned about transmission of COVID-19 by using the pharmacy pen). Pharmacists are still expected to require patients, or their agents, to acknowledge receipt of the pharmaceutical benefit where it is practical to do so; however, pharmacists are not required to sign on the patient’s behalf where it is not practical for the patient or the patient’s agent to sign.  

  • waive the requirement for a signature for a pharmaceutical benefits prescription record where an approved supplier’s signature is normally required, but the record is not handwritten and it is not practicable for the patient to obtain the approved supplier’s signature.  

State and Territory legislation will also continue to apply to this interim arrangement. Medicines in Schedule 8 and Schedule 4 Appendix D in the Poisons Standard will continue to be excluded from the Special Arrangement, unless specifically permitted by relevant state or territory rules. Further information can be found here

All other rules regarding this interim arrangement, such as keeping a copy of the prescription for two years, will also continue. 

More information on electronic prescribing can be found on the Department of Health’s website here