In certain emergency situations, pharmacists in some States may supply a few days’ worth of Schedule 4 medicines without a prescription to enable continuity of therapy.

The 5th Community Pharmacy Agreement (5CPA) has expanded this autonomy to allow pharmacists to also offer patients one continued dispensing service annually where the full quantity of the medicine is supplied, and funded through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This service is limited to oral contraceptives, and cholesterol lowering HMG CoA reductase inhibitors (‘statins’).

In order to provide this service, the pharmacist must verify that the patient needs to continue their established and stable medicine immediately, but is unable to visit a medical practitioner. Circumstances where this may happen include when the patient is away from home, about to embark on a holiday, or has simply finished their last repeat of medicine without getting a new prescription. The pharmacist has a duty of care to refer the patient to a medical practitioner if therapy has been intermittent or compliance inconsistent.

The medical practitioner must be identifiable, and have reviewed the patient since the medicine was commenced, the dose changed, or at least within the last year.

While the 5CPA has been in place for three years, this incentive was only due to start September 1st 2013, however it is still awaiting individual state-based legislation to be passed0 before it can actually commence.


  1. Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. Guidelines for Continued Dispensing of Eligible Prescribed Medicines by Pharmacists. Canberra: PSA; 2012.