Key messages

  • Victoria allows pharmacists to dispense prescriptions for pharmacotherapy written by interstate prescribers.
  • Different guidelines apply for a patient travelling to Victoria permanently or temporarily.
  • It is crucial for the prescriber and the pharmacist to liaise before the patient travels to Victoria.

A medical practitioner who does not practise in Victoria, but is registered under the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA), may write a prescription for a Schedule 8 poison to be dispensed in Victoria.

The prescriber would still need to comply with all legislative requirements to prescribe a Schedule 8 poison within their state or territory. Prescriptions should also be written in accordance with r. 26 of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2006 (Vic).

In this instance, Schedule 8 poisons specifically refer to pharmacotherapy, or opioid replacement therapy (ORT).

Authorisations for an interstate prescriber – requirements

An interstate pharmacotherapy prescriber may need to write an ORT prescription for a patient who is travelling to Victoria either temporarily or permanently.

Temporary transfers

An interstate ORT prescriber does not require a Victorian permit for their prescription to be dispensed in Victoria, provided the prescription is not written in Victoria. Prescribers or patients can contact DirectLine to obtain contact details of the nearest available ORT-approved dosing pharmacy.

Before the patient travels to Victoria, the prescriber is responsible for:

  • confirming that the pharmacist is able to accept the patient to their pharmacy
  • ensuring that all relevant transfer details are provided to the pharmacist.

A temporary transfer should be limited to up to 4 weeks of treatment, given the potential risks associated with the lack of medical supervision.

Permanent transfers

If a patient is moving to Victoria (that is, a permanent transfer), the patient should be treated by an ORT prescriber practising in Victoria.

Prescribers or patients can contact DirectLine to obtain contact details of the nearest available ORT-approved prescriber and dosing pharmacy.

Before the patient travels to Victoria, the original prescriber is responsible for:

  • confirming that the transferring prescriber and pharmacist are both able to accept the patient to their practice/pharmacy
  • ensuring that all relevant transfer details are provided to the prescriber and pharmacist.

Validating the prescription with the pharmacist

When an interstate-approved ORT prescriber is intending to prescribe ORT for dosing at a Victorian pharmacy, the prescriber should first make contact and provide the Victorian pharmacist with all relevant transfer details, and ensure that the pharmacist is able to accept the patient to their pharmacy.

Before the patient arrives in Victoria, the prescriber should forward copies of the following to the pharmacist:

  • the prescription
  • details of the previous dosing point
  • any relevant transfer documents
  • a certified photograph of the patient.

Providing this documentation will help the Victorian pharmacist to verify the identity and transfer details when the patient presents to the pharmacy with all the original documents.

Victorian pharmacists are not obligated to check if a valid permit or authorisation exists interstate. However, the pharmacist may check to confirm with the relevant interstate regulatory group that the prescriber is an ORT-approved prescriber.

The pharmacist is required under Victorian legislation to check the validity of the prescription if they are unaware of the prescriber's handwriting. This reiterates the importance of early and proper communication between the prescriber and the pharmacist.

Number of takeaway doses

The pharmacist will need to exercise professional judgment on the safety and appropriateness of the drug and dose prescribed, including the number of takeaway doses for ORT. This is a pharmacist’s requirement for any prescription.

The prescriber should always liaise with the pharmacist before the patient travels to Victoria. This is to provide all relevant details (including the number of takeaways prescribed), and to ensure that the pharmacist is prepared to accept the patient to their pharmacy.

Note that an authorisation granted interstate for a certain number of takeaway doses does not mean a pharmacist in Victoria has to supply that number of takeaways. The Victorian policy for maintenance pharmacotherapy for opioid dependence provides guidelines for Victorian prescribers and pharmacists to adopt when assessing the appropriateness of prescribing or supplying takeaway doses.

Pharmacists are health professionals, and they always have the right to refuse supply of any drug (including takeaways) if they consider it to be unsafe or inappropriate.

Pharmacists – department notifications

If a Victorian pharmacy dispenses ORT for a patient on a prescription written by an interstate doctor, the pharmacist should use the form Notification of a temporary interstate transfer of a patient on ORT to a Victorian pharmacy to notify the department of their intention once the patient is accepted.

Pharmacotherapy transfers – contact details

Note that it is not department’s role to facilitate or arrange ORT transfers.

Prescribers or patients can contact DirectLine to obtain contact details of the nearest available ORT-approved prescriber and dosing pharmacy.

Contact details for interstate regulatory groups

Australian Capital Territory

Pharmaceutical Services Branch (ACT)

Phone: (02) 6207 3974 Fax: (02) 6205 0997

New South Wales

Pharmaceutical Services Branch (NSW)

Phone: (02) 9391 9944 Fax: (02) 9424 5860

Email: pharmserv@doh.health.nsw.gov.au

Northern Territory

Medicines and Poisons Control (NT)

Phone: (08) 8922 7341 Fax: (08) 8922 7200

Queensland

Medicines Regulation and Quality

Phone: (07) 3328 9890 Fax: (07) 3328 9821

Email: mrq@health.qld.gov.au

South Australia

Drugs of Dependence Unit (SA)

Phone: 1300 652 584 Fax: 1300 658 447

Email: dassadrugsofdependenceunit@health.sa.gov.au

Tasmania

Pharmaceutical Services Branch (Tas)

Phone: (03) 6233 2064 Fax: (03) 6233 3904

Western Australia

Pharmaceutical Services Branch (WA)

Phone: (08) 9222 6883 Fax: (08) 9222 2463

Contact details