What is an unapproved Pharmacy?

Amanda Seeto explains.

This is a pharmacy that has not received approval to supply PBS medicines.  A common reason for this is that the new pharmacy does not comply with the Location Rules, which ensures a commercially viable and sustainable network of community pharmacies dispensing PBS medicines. Examples of Location Rules that are not met include the new pharmacy is less than 1.5km from an existing pharmacy, or there’s insufficient specialty stores in a shopping centre for an additional pharmacy.

Provided the unapproved pharmacy complies with all other laws surrounding the supply of medicines (such as location of scheduled medicines behind a counter) and has a pharmacist on duty, unapproved pharmacies may still operate and sell scheduled medicines and non-PBS prescriptions.  However:

  • They must not make a claim for payment of PBS medicines if supply of the medicine was from an unapproved site.
  • A medicine supplied from an unapproved pharmacy, including those below the co-payment, may not contribute towards a patient’s safety net total.

The growing number of unapproved pharmacies is concerning Members because owners of these pharmacies are allegedly dispensing the PBS medicines at a (usually nearby) approved site that they either own or have connections with, but supplying them from the unapproved site.  The approved pharmacy that is supplying these PBS medicines can be deemed to be ‘abusing’ their approval, which may lead to an investigation by a Pharmaceutical Services Federal Committee of Inquiry.

Concerns relating to breaches should be reported to the Health Provider Compliance Tip-off Line by filling in the required forms available.

Amanda Seeto is a community pharmacist, pharmacy owner and The Pharmacy Guild of Australia Queensland Branch Committee member and professional-practice pharmacist.