Current state of medicine play

Following on from yesterday’s decision to enforce new limits on dispensing and sales of prescription and over the counter (OTC) medicines, we take a look at the certain requirements for community pharmacists.

Demand increased markedly during the first two weeks of March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which results in pharmacies and wholesalers reporting numerous product lines out of stock presenting challenges for Australian consumers.

While imminent or widespread level medicine shortages are not anticipated, however if current levels of demand through excessive purchasing continue, supply interruptions will occur.

It is, therefore, critical to protect access of medicines for Australians.

New requirements for community pharmacists


  • Pharmacists will be required to limit dispensing of certain prescription products to 1 months’ supply at the prescribed dose. This includes asthma and COPD medicines, insulins and oral hypoglycaemic medication, and anti-epileptics.
  • Sales of certain over-the-counter medicines (including salbutamol inhalers) are required to be limited to a maximum of one unit per purchase.

Strongly encouraged

  • Pharmacists are strongly encouraged to limit dispensing and sales of all other medicines to 1 month’s supply or 1 unit.

New controls on supply of two OTC medicines

There has been particularly high demand for salbutamol inhalers and paracetamol paediatric formulations.

  • Salbutamol inhalers: pharmacists will be required to confirm that supply is appropriate by confirmation of the patient’s diagnosis, label the product indicating to whom it has been dispensed and record the supply.
  • Paracetamol paediatric formulations: pharmacists will be required to place paracetamol paediatric formulations behind the counter to assist in allocating supply equitably.

Only one salbutamol or paracetamol paediatric product is to be supplied per customer.

Joint effort

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the National Pharmaceutical Services Association have agreed to these limits and have agreed that these limits will be accompanied by limits on orders from wholesalers.

This will ensure equitable distribution of stock, including to regional and rural pharmacies.