Pharmaceutical Services

The Pharmaceutical Services Section (PSS) of the Health Protection Service (HPS) ensures the safe supply of medicines, poisons and therapeutic goods to the ACT community.

We are responsible for conducting various regulatory activities that help ensure medicines or poisons are prescribed, stored and supplied in line with local legislation. This includes responsibly regulating community pharmacy ownership and premises in the ACT.

We also distribute information about medicines and therapeutic goods recalls across the ACT community to ensure their protection from any harm associated with the use of sub-standard or unsafe products.

Find out more about each of our services

Updates to Schedule 4 monitored medicines

Australia has a growing problem with harms including deaths due to the abuse and misuse of prescription medications. This growing issue has superseded abuse and misuse associated with illegal drugs.
Currently, only schedule 8 (controlled) medicines are monitored in the ACT.

With effect from 1 October 2021, the following are monitored medicines under the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2008:

  • codeine
  • tramadol
  • all benzodiazepines
  • quetiapine
  • zolpidem
  • zopiclone
  • gabapentin
  • pregabalin 

For more information, please see the declaration available on the ACT Legislation Register.

Further information can be found at

Updates to pharmacist authorisations for administration of COVID-19 vaccines

From 10 August 2021, the ACT Pharmacist Vaccination Standards have been updated to allow suitably trained pharmacists and intern pharmacists to administer the COVID-19 (chadox1-s) (AstraZeneca) vaccine to consenting individuals aged 18 years and over consistent with ATAGI advice and administer the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines in line with the patient age limits as approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). For more information click here.

Canberra Script to provide real time prescription monitoring in the ACT

Prescribers and pharmacists will soon have access to a new real time prescription monitoring system in the ACT called Canberra Script. The system is designed to support health practitioners reduce harms and preventable deaths in the ACT community by supporting the safe and effective use of monitored medicines.

Further information about Canberra Script plans for the ACT.

Updates to the Controlled Medicines Prescribing Standards – May 2021

Update to Category 3 – Opioid Maintenance Treatment

Changes have been made to the Category 3 – Controlled medicine to treat a person with drug-dependency, to incorporate prescribing criteria and conditions for depot formulations of buprenorphine.

The prescribing of depot buprenorphine products may now be approved under a Category 3B approval.

Further information on these Standards can be found at the Opioid Maintenance Treatment page.

Update to Category 6 – Medicinal Cannabis

Category 6 has been amended to remove the option for applying for Chief Health Officer approvals by Category, with applications only to be considered as Approvals by Drug.  For applications submitted via the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) online application portal, the clinical assessment process will now be undertaken by the TGA.

Further information on the changes to the processing of medicinal cannabis applications.

The amended Standards can be found on the ACT Legislation Register.

National Real Time Prescription Monitoring 

The ACT Government is working on a project to replace ACT DAPIS Online Remote Access (DORA) in 2021 with the national Real Time Prescription Monitoring (RTPM) system. 

For further information please visit the National Real Time Prescription Monitoring system page.

Nurse and Midwife Immunisers

On 21 August 2020, the ACT Government introduced changes to permit registered nurses and midwives that have successfully completed a suitable immunisation training course to administer certain vaccines without a prescription or standing order. The changes have been made to improve the authorising mechanisms for nurse and midwife immunisers in the ACT and to reflect national best practice. Further information is available here.

Medicine authorisations for medical radiation practitioners

On 8 June 2020, the Minister for Health approved an amendment regulation to authorise registered medical radiation practitioners to deal with scheduled medicines as part of their practice. 

The amendment regulation addresses a longstanding anomaly that medical radiation practitioners were not authorised to deal with scheduled medicines for routine diagnostic or treatment procedures. 

This change means registered medical radiation practitioners are now authorised to administer medicines to patients in accordance with protocol or procedures as part of their intended scope of practice. 

This change has been made to support clinical workflows at ACT medical imaging practices and in doing so, support the safe and quality provision of care to ACT patients. 

The amendment regulation obligates medical radiation practitioners to deal with medicines in accordance with the Professional Capabilities for Medical Radiation Practitioners approved by the Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia. The current version of this document came into effect on 1 March 2020 and includes that registered medical radiation practitioners must be able to apply knowledge of safe and effective use of medicines relevant to practice and safely and effectively deliver medicine[s] to patients/clients in accordance with procedures.

The new authorisations are described in Schedule 1, Part 1.4A of the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 and are now in effect. The regulation also incorporates other consequential amendments relating to obligations of medical radiation practitioners for the storage, record keeping and witnessing of medicines.

For further information please contact the Health Protection Service or 02 5124 9208.

Electronic Prescribing

The Australian Government is progressing the implementation of electronic prescribing (ePrescribing). The COVID-19 National Health Plan has accelerated the implementation.

ACT legislation supports electronic prescribing. Pharmacists should contact their software supplier and ask them to activate electronic prescription dispensing functionality. Pharmacies should consider potential workflow changes that may be required to dispense electronic prescriptions. During implementation, prescribers should ensure their patient’s pharmacy of choice is able to dispense electronic prescriptions before issuing an electronic prescription for them. Practitioners who are ready and using conformant software may commence use of electronic prescriptions for their patients. 

Prescribers should consider the suitability of electronic prescriptions for their patients. Paper prescriptions remain an option and may continue to be preferred by patients who have difficulties managing digital technologies (e.g. receiving and managing SMS/email tokens).

All medicines, including schedule 8 (controlled) medicines, can be prescribed and dispensed with conformant software through an electronic prescription. Pharmacists are reminded that the token model (that displays a QR code) must be scanned to unlock the legal electronic prescription which must then be dispensed electronically using conformant software. 

Further information about electronic prescriptions is available here.

Amendment to faxed prescription requirements

Changes have been made to the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 (MPTG Regulation) to support pharmacists and prescribers with record keeping for faxed prescriptions.

On 20 June 2020, sections 31A and 120A were added to the MPTG Regulation to exempt the requirement to send or receive the original of a faxed prescription where the supply is made for a medicine in accordance with a Commonwealth special arrangement that requires prescribers to retain the original.

An example is the recent Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) interim arrangements for telehealth consultations during COVID-19.

This regulatory change aligns the ACT record keeping requirements for faxed prescriptions with the Commonwealth PBS interim arrangement for telehealth consultations.

This means that prescribers do not need to send the original of a faxed prescription to a pharmacist where it is prescribed during a telehealth consultation while the PBS special arrangements are in place. Pharmacists are also not obligated to receive the original in these circumstances.

Pharmacists are required to confirm whether the faxed prescription was written as part of a telehealth consultation in order to meet the ACT record keeping requirements and should make a record of this.

Verbal advice from the prescriber or patient is considered sufficient for this purpose. Prescribers can also confirm this in writing on the faxed prescription.

Furthermore, sections 31 and 120 of the MPTG Regulation were also updated to change the ordinary faxed prescription record keeping requirements as follows:

  • the timeframe within which a prescriber must send the original of a faxed prescription to a pharmacist has been changed from 24 hours to 7 days.
  • the timeframe within which a pharmacist must receive the original of a faxed or verbal prescription before notifying the Chief Health Officer about non-receipt of the original prescription has been changed from 7 days to 14 days.

This means the ordinary record keeping requirements for faxed prescriptions have been extended for pharmacists and prescribers. These changes will allow greater flexibility for pharmacists and prescribers when issuing or dispensing faxed prescriptions during and after COVID-19.

Further information on telehealth prescribing including updated FAQs can be accessed here.

The MPTG Regulation can be found on the ACT Legislation Register.

Updates to the ACT Controlled Medicines Prescribing Standards - June 2020

Changes have been made to the ACT Controlled Medicines Prescribing Standards (the Prescribing Standards) which came into effect on 12 June 2020.

The Prescribing Standards establish conditions and criteria under which a prescriber may be approved to prescribe a controlled medicine in the ACT under the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008.

The changes primarily relate to Category 3 for Opioid Maintenance Treatment (OMT) arising due to COVID-19 as well as routine improvements, and include:

  • Insertion of new special case provisions for supply of unsupervised (take away) doses of OMT during a declared public health emergency.

    This authorises up to three additional take away doses of methadone or buprenorphine under a Category 3A or 3B approval or an Approval by Drug during a declared public health emergency (such as COVID-19) to enable rapid commencement or continuation of take away doses for a person unable to attend their usual pharmacy for supervised dosing for reasons outside their control (such as compulsory isolation). Where this provision is used, the prescriber is still required to seek Approval by Drug (or an amendment to their existing Approval by Drug) for the additional take away doses.
  • Updates to ordinary take away limits under Category 3A and 3B approvals.

    This enables earlier commencement and increases in take away doses for buprenorphine/naloxone. Clients may commence take aways after minimum 1 month in treatment (previously 3 months) and may reach the maximum allowance from 9 months (previously 12 months).

    The proposed changes provide for a less rigid framework that aligns with equivalent NSW guidelines.
  • Update to the opioid dose conversion ratios and Morphine Equivalence calculator.

    The new ratios reflect those recommended by the Faculty of Pain Medicine, Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists (ANZCA). This change impacts the conversion factors for tapentadol and fentanyl which will result in a higher dose being authorised under a Category approval.

The changes follow valued input and consultation with the ACT Opioid Treatment Advisory Committee and Medicines Advisory Committee.

Page last updated on: 22 Aug 2023