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FAQs Continued


Medication and Prescriptions

  1. Do I have to see a doctor to obtain a repeat prescription?
    You will normally need to see a doctor for repeat scripts. However, if you are a regular attendee here, and your medication is stable and known, you can ask by telephone ( 'Telescript') to have a repeat prescription prepared (there is a fee for this service which is non-rebatable under Medicare). Please note, we will not initiate new medication, or change existing medication, through this system.
  2. How long do I have to wait before collecting my Telescript?
    You can request a prescription over the telephone ('Telescript') as noted in a previous question. However, it is essential that we have a minimum of 24 hours notice before you can expect to collect the script. We can post or fax a prescription on request, but there is an additional handling charge for this (non-rebatable under Medicare). Scripts for S8 medication (see elsewhere in this FAQ) must always be collected in person.
  3. Can I have a print-out of my current medication, to help me make sure I am taking it properly?
    Yes. Just ask your doctor here to provide it, if you have not already been given one.
  4. I have been prescribed medication which requires an 'Authority Prescription' - what does that mean?
    Authority Prescriptions are special prescriptions that usually relate to expensive or restricted medications. 'Authorities' are also required when you need a larger quantity than normally allowed for ordinary prescription medications. To receive a PBS-subsidised price for these classes of medications, your doctor must apply for 'authority' to prescribe from the Health Insurance Commission (who administer Medicare).
    Normally, this requires that the doctor either telephones the HIC call-centre, or post the prescription to the centre for authorisation who will then post it back to your home address. Some doctors quite sensibly prefer not to be on the phone 'all-day' to a call-centre and will prefer to post your authority prescription for processing - this takes about a week for turn-around (longer for DVA pensioner prescriptions).
    So you should make sure that you get your authority prescription request in at least ten days before you will need it.
    Note that it is important to ensure that you have picked-up your last repeat of medication before you ask for a new Authority prescription. If the HIC sees that the doctor is requesting a new Authority prescription when there are still repeats to be collected, they will just return the prescription request to the doctor without allowing it, thereby wasting everybody's time.
  5. I am travelling interstate and I have medical conditions and/or take regular medication, what should I do?
    Ask your doctor here for a letter, or even just your medical summary print-out, so that you can take it with you interstate, just in case you fall ill while your are away. Doctors who might have to see you will find such a letter very helpful, especially a list of your current medication.
  6. Can I fill a prescription for my usual S8 (restricted narcotic medication such as morphine and oxycodone) medication while I am interstate?
    No, it is against the law. You must either take sufficient medication with you, or arrange for an interstate doctor to write a new prescription for you. It is unwise to carry large quantities of S8 medication at any time, but particularly while travelling. If you are going interstate for a long time (months), you will need to make arrangements well in advance for an interstate doctor to do this - ask your doctor here for advice.
  7. I am going overseas and may need immunisations/ tablets/ advice, can you help?
    Yes. Also see Services page.
  8. I am going overseas, what do I need to do about my medication and any customs requirements?
    There are now strict laws to prevent quantities of PBS-subsidised medication from being taken overseas to be sold or given to family and friends. It is important that you take a letter from you doctor to show to customs officials when requested.
  9. I am going overseas, how careful do I need to be regarding my S8 (restricted narcotic medication such as morphine and oxycodone) medication?
    Very careful indeed. Many overseas countries, particularly in South-East Asia have very serious penalties including the death sentence for carrying 'trafficable' quantities of certain drugs. Discuss this with your doctor.
  10. The pharmacist/hospital seems to have changed ('substituted') the medication that my doctor has prescribed, what's going on? What is a 'generic' medicine?
    The federal government now permits pharmacists to change (substitute) medicines which the doctor has prescribed, to a 'generic' form of the same medication, on the basis that the substituted medication may be cheaper. Generic medications are generally alternative forms of the same chemical ('molecule') found in the brand name product. Generics are usually produced by a 'generics' company after the patent has expired on a brand-name product.
    Generic companies often have no interest in research and development for the creation of new drugs, don't back their products with comprehensive information/assistance programs for patients or doctors, and usually the generic product comes in cheap down-market packaging. There are often many different generic products, all with different brand-names, for the same 'molecule'.
  11. Are there any restrictions on pharmacists substituting generic medicines for the doctor's prescription?
    Pharmacists are not permitted to substitute for alternative generic medication if your doctor has 'ticked the box' on your prescription. If your doctor has 'ticked the box' to disallow substitution, you should ask your pharmacist why substitution has occurred, and let your doctor here know.
  12. Are there any concerns with generic substitution of medications that a doctor has prescribed?
    It is important for our patients to have access to quality medicines at the lowest possible price, now and in the future. Note that your doctor can prescribe generics if after careful consideration you and your doctor think that it is in your best interests. However, some doctors have concerns with unbridled generic substitution because:
    • there are concerns that generic drugs are not exactly the same as the brand-name product, and indeed some patients report that they can notice the difference and request the original 'brand-name' product
    • confusion with medications, a very important issue, can arise particularly in the elderly patient as there are often many generic brands for the one 'molecule'; repeated substitution with "this month's" cheapest product could result in serious mistakes in the taking of medication
    • many brand-name products have patient and doctor support systems provided by the pharmaceutical company, which can be helpful in maximising the benefit of a particular medication - these support systems are often not available from generic companies
    • the packaging of generic medication is often bare-bones; better packaging can be helpful in ensuring compliance and safety with taking of medication; for example a calendar blister-pack compared with all tablets loose in a plastic bottle
    • the price difference on a per tablet basis in some cases is almost minimal or non-existent and may not be worth making the change
    • it can disrupt the traditional and important 'arms-length' relationship that normally exists between prescriber (doctor) and dispenser (pharmacist), which helps ensure that there can be no commercial interest for either party in recommending a particular product
    • generic companies generally do not research, develop, and bring to the Australian market new life-saving medication the way brand-name companies do, they simply copy and re-package old formulas and so future access to new quality medications in Australia may be at risk - you may want to think about this.
  13. I have allergies to certain medications, should I tell anyone?
    Yes. You should always tell us if you have any allergies particularly to medications (for example to antibiotics such as penicillin and sulfa drugs). This can be then entered into your computerised medical record with two benefits. First, if an attempt is made to prescribe such a medication, the computer will flash a warning.
    Second, any such allergies will normally be printed-out automatically on any referral letter that your doctor may write, so that other doctors including doctors at hospitals will know.
  14. I am pregnant, should I tell the doctor?
    Yes. Antenatal care will need to be arranged. The doctor will also 'enter' your pregnancy into your computerised file, with several benefits. First, if an attempt is made to prescribe medication that might be unsafe in pregnancy, the computer will flash a warning. Second, the computer will always automatically recalculate the number of weeks that you have been pregnant, whenever we see you.
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