Australia’s two most populous states have extended emergency measures to help with pharmaceutical dispensing for another six months.

The Victorian and New South Wales governments extended orders allowing pharmacists to prescribe medicines available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) without a prescription. This is subject to satisfaction that an immediate need exists.

The orders began in January in response to the bushfire crisis. But now the measures are in place until the end of September.

This is how long the federal government thinks it will take to get COVID-19 under control in Australia.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has welcomed the move and called for other states to follow suit.

“Australians are doing it tough at the moment, so making emergency supply measures permanent and nationally consistent, would make life that much easier,” national president George Tambassis said.

“It would mean our patients don’t have an additional, unnecessary cost or have to wait for action each time a crisis arises”.


Cannabis could be on the list

The PBS includes certain medicinal cannabis products but they typically require a prescription to access them.

With the change in how PBS medicines are dispensed, theoretically some medicinal cannabis products should be among those that can be obtained without a script. However, it may be a little more complicated for those who haven’t had a prescription in the past.

FreshLeaf Analytics analyst Rhys Cohen told Stockhead the Victorian order specifically was a “fascinating little quirk”. He noted there were several steps to take before patients could get their hands on a prescription.

He says for those users that are at the point of receiving a prescription, the extended measures may make it easier to access medicinal cannabis products.

“The prescription is the final step. From my reading it looks like it [the order] is only for continuing patients — so only those who’ve been prescribed before,” he said.

“I haven’t heard of anyone using it yet but it’s possible we may see people taking advantage of that.”

But would-be patients shouldn’t despair. Cohen said the step before prescription was Category B approval under the Special Access Scheme.

And the number of these approvals granted has tripled from 1,023 in March 2019 to 3,568 in February 2020. In that 12-month period, over 30,000 applications received the green light.

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