Three ANU Medical School students have devised a comprehensive quick-reference guide to assist prescribers battling to navigate the state-by-state differences in rules for the prescription of Schedule 8 drugs.
Andy Hua, Finna Shen and Xiaoting (Betty) Ge have published their guide in a Perspective article in the recent Medical Journal of Australia. Schedule 8 (S8) drugs are strictly regulated because of the high risk of misuse and/or physical and psychological dependence associated with them.
They must be prescribed, dispensed, documented and destroyed in specific ways that are in compliance with each state and territory's different drug regulations, the authors wrote. "Australia has no central body to regulate the handling of S8 drugs", they said.
"Although the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is the national body for the regulation of medicines, each state and territory self-regulates under the general principles established by the TGA and has its own interpretation and legislation regarding S8 drugs, resulting in varied prescribing requirements."
The discrepancies create problems for prescribers who may have moved interstate and have "no single, clear resource that documents the slight nuances".
Similarly, patients moving interstate may find that the prescription that was legally provided in one state is not legal in another, leading to delays in treatment.
"Resources highlighting state-based S8 requirements for prescribers should be made readily available", the authors wrote.
"A comprehensive quick-reference guide, such as the table we provide, minimises the ambiguity in legal requirements for health practitioners, and its use may also reduce the amount of time spent by pharmacists and doctors in correcting non-compliant prescriptions."
Media Release Medical Journal of Australia 20 July 2015. Full article Med J Aust 2015; 203 (2) 64-66