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Brand names banished under new prescribing regulations

New regulations come into force from 1 February requiring doctors to prescribe PBS drugs by their active ingredient instead of their brand name, in a bid to encourage greater uptake of generic medicines and reduce medication errors.

Brand names will now largely be excluded from Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation PBS prescriptions as part of the Federal Government’s 2018-2019 Electronic Prescribing Budget initiative that could reportedly save an extra $336 million over the next five years.

The legislation prohibits prescribing software from automatically including brand names on prescriptions, with prescribers only allowed to include the brand name if they deem it clinically necessary. If brand names are included, the active ingredient must be listed first.

Handwritten scripts or drugs with four or more active ingredients will be exempt from the rule.

The aim of the regulation is to improve patient understanding of the medications they take, while increasing the use of generic and biosimilar drugs that will ultimately reduce of out-of-pocket costs for consumers.

In turn, the government hopes this will make the PBS more sustainable, while aligning Australia with international prescribing practices.

Health officials also believe the new measure will prevent patients accidentally taking multiple doses of medicines that have different brands, but the same active ingredient.

“Consumers will be better informed about the medicines they are taking,” the government stated.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare has listed medicines that doctors should consider prescribing by brand name.

This includes several glaucoma eye drops due to concerns that the active ingredient name is similar to others and will likely cause confusion and selection errors.

At a glance

The regulation mandates the inclusion of the active ingredients on all PBS and RPBS prescriptions with the exception of:

  • Handwritten prescriptions.
  • Paper based medication charts in residential aged care settings.
  • Medications with four or more active ingredients.
  • Vaccines.
  • Custom preparations and prescriptions generated through a free text function within prescribing software.
  • Over the counter items.

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