24/04/2020 | Stephen Wade MLC

South Australians can now access the medicines they need without ever leaving the home, with pharmacists given the go-ahead to supply prescription medicine without a hard copy paper prescription during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the temporary change to medicines regulation allows for the use of digital image-based prescriptions, supporting safe and convenient healthcare for vulnerable patients.

“Many patients who would usually see their doctor in person to collect a paper-based prescription are now making use of telehealth appointments to receive medical care in the safety of their own home,” Minister Wade said.

“Now South Australia has approved a temporary exemption to the Controlled Substances Regulations that will also enable patients to have their prescriptions filled without leaving home.

“This special arrangement means prescribers can send the patient’s pharmacist a digital image of the prescription – for example, by emailing a scanned copy – with no need to provide the original paper prescription at all.

“The pharmacist can then fill the script and deliver the medicine to the patient at home.

“National changes enacted by the Commonwealth ensure that prescriptions filled this way remain eligible for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

“Those in our community who are most at risk from exposure to coronavirus, such as older persons and people living with chronic medical conditions, are best protected by staying at home and not mixing with others in a doctor’s waiting room or pharmacy.

“South Australia is enacting its clear, strong plan to fight COVID-19 and working cooperatively with our federal counterparts to ensure all South Australians can continue to receive the health care they need during this challenging time.”

SA Health Interim Chief Pharmacist Naomi Burgess said the special arrangement is in place until 30 September 2020 to support the increased use of telehealth due to COVID-19.

“This new method of prescribing is not mandatory but will be a useful tool for the many healthcare professionals who are now offering their patients Medicare telehealth services,” Ms Burgess said.

“It also supports pharmacists and consumers to observe safe practices by allowing a pharmacist to supply medicines without acknowledgment of the patient where it is impractical for them to sign the prescription, for example due to infection control.

“Prescribers should check with the patient’s pharmacy about how they would like to receive a digital image, noting that email, fax and text messages are all acceptable options.

“Pharmacists are obliged to confirm the bona fides of the prescription, including that it has been written and sent by an authorised prescriber.”