Pharmacist legal obligations when handling, dispensing and supplying drugs of dependence
Pharmacist legal obligations - prescription and supply of drugs of dependence in South Australia is regulated under Act and Regulations
Regulation aims to minimise the induction of drug dependence, abuse or diversion of prescribed drugs for non-medical purposes through the granting and revocation of authorities to prescribe drugs of dependence.
Health professionals who must comply with this legislation include:
A prescriber must not (unless an emergency exists) prescribe or supply a drug of dependence in the following situations:1
Prescriptions for drugs of dependence are valid for a maximum period of six months from the date of prescribing.2
Prescriptions must include3:
In addition to the above, Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence (MATOD) prescriptions should also include the:
An authority4 is a legal document granted by the Minister allowing prescribers to treat a particular patient with specified drugs of dependence; it is not intended to provide clinical endorsement of the treatment being prescribed, this is the responsibility of the prescriber.
An authority issued under section 18A of the Act stipulates the conditions under which prescribing of a drug of dependence must occur, including dosage and quantity. It is not the same as an authority issued by Medicare Australia that issues its authorities for the subsidy of medications under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Please refer to the PBS information line for more information on 1800 020 613.
It is an offence to prescribe or supply (including administering from the prescribers’ own supply), drugs of dependence for a patient for regular treatment exceeding two months without authority from the Minister.4
Treatment provided by other prescribers must be considered when calculating the two-month period.
Veterinary surgeons are not required to hold authorities to treat animal patients.
Applications must be made to the Minister via the Drugs of Dependence Unit. Applications are to be made in writing only and signed by the applying prescriber.4
See below for a list of forms to apply or renew your authority.
Treating drug dependence, be it illicit, licit or iatrogenic dependence, requires an authority from the Minister in the first instance; it is an offence to prescribe for this purpose without an authority for any period.4
A person is drug dependent if he or she has acquired, as a result of the repeated administration of prescription drugs or controlled drugs, an overpowering desire for the continued administration of any such drugs and is likely to suffer mental or physical distress or disorder upon cessation of the administration of the drug; or has consumed prescribed drugs in a manner that presents a risk to that person’s health.
Drug diversion is a term used to describe a significant and growing problem which involves the sale or supply of prescription drugs to persons to whom they are not prescribed. Prescription opioid drugs have significant “street value” and may be sold on the black market for illicit recreational use; they may also be traded for other drugs.
Yes. An authority is not required when prescribing or supplying a drug of dependence in the following circumstances:
The prescription and supply of drugs of dependence are regulated to minimise harms associated with their use. There is growing evidence to suggest that prescription drug abuse is a significant public health issue with over 25% of deaths now linked to prescribed opioid drugs.6
The Drugs of Dependence Unit seeks the co-operation of prescribers when administering legislation and aims to work with prescribers to promote quality use of medicines principles.
In cases where this cannot be achieved, legislation determines penalties that may apply including Prohibition Orders that effectively remove the ability to handle certain drugs, notification to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), fines and imprisonment.
Applications generally take 15 days to process (unless issued to treat drug dependence).
1 Controlled Substances (Poisons) Regulations 2011 (SA) , r37
2 Controlled Substances (Poisons) Regulations 2011 (SA) , r35 7B
3 Controlled Substances (Poisons) Regulations 2011 (SA) , r35
4 Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA), 18A
5 Controlled Substances (Poisons) Regulations 2011 (SA) , r22
6 Coroners Reports, Notifications to the Drugs of Dependence Unit SA, 2006-2012.