Education guide - Writing PBS and RPBS prescriptions

Information about writing Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) prescriptions for all eligible prescribers.


The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) subsidises the cost of many prescription medicines. This subsidy covers:

Eligible prescribers can only prescribe:

  • PBS medicines listed on the current PBS Schedule, and
  • medicines listed within their prescriber type

Prescriber types include:

Eligible veterans, war widows and their dependents can get medicines through the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS). The RPBS is administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA).

Pharmaceutical benefits categories

There are 3 categories of pharmaceutical benefits:

Category Description
Unrestricted Medicine that can be prescribed through the PBS and RPBS without restrictions on the therapeutic use.
Restricted benefit Medicine prescribed through the PBS and RPBS with specific therapeutic uses as listed in the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits (the Schedule).
Authority required There are 2 types of Authority listed required medicines:
  • Authority required - restricted medicines that need prior approval from us or DVA
  • Authority required (STREAMLINED) - restricted medicines that do not require prior approval from us or DVA. These must have the relevant streamlined Authority code on the prescription

There are no Authority required medicines listed for dental items.

PBS prescriptions

Prescribers must:

  • indicate on the prescription whether their patient is eligible for the PBS
  • prescribe within their scope of practice and prescribing accreditation
  • comply with state or territory legislation
  • comply with PBS requirements
  • use the correct prescription stationery

A PBS prescription must be for the treatment of the person named on the PBS prescription.

PBS prescribing rules

You can’t prescribe more than 1 PBS prescription for the same medicine for the same person on the same day.

If you provide the original supply and all repeat supplies on one occasion, you need to:

  • have Section 49 or Regulation 24 written or printed on the prescription
  • endorse the prescriptions with your initials

You can prescribe up to 3 medicines on standard PBS prescription stationery. The exceptions are for optometrists, Authority required or Authority required (STREAMLINED) medicines. In these cases, you can only prescribe 1 medicine on the prescription.

Before you prescribe Authority required medicines, you must get approval from us or DVA, unless it’s an Authority required (STREAMLINED) medicine.

You also need prior approval from us or DVA for quantities or repeats that are more than those specified in the Schedule.

You must prescribe in line with Section 40 of the National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Regulations 2017.

You must include:

  • your name and practice address
  • your prescriber number
  • the patient's name and address
  • a tick in the relevant PBS or RPBS box
  • the name, strength and form of medicine
  • the dose and instructions for use
  • the quantity and number of repeats
  • your signature
  • the date you write the prescription - you can’t forward or backdate the prescription
  • the patient’s Medicare number and any entitlement details (e.g. Commonwealth concession, pension or health care card details or veterans' entitlement number)
  • a tick in the ‘Brand substitution not permitted’ box, if applicable

There are additional requirements for Authority Required prescriptions. You must include:

  • the authority prescription number - used by the pharmacy as a reference when dispensing an approved PBS Authority Required prescription and any repeats. Quote the Authority prescription number when applying for telephone approvals, and
  • the authority approval number - the approval number given by us or DVA. It’s needed for Authority required medicines, or
  • the four digit streamlined Authority code from the schedule - only for Authority required (STREAMLINED) medicines

PBS prescription stationery

You must use the PBS prescription stationery products approved by us for your prescriber type when you prescribe PBS medicines.

View examples of prescription stationery:

Computer-generated prescriptions

All eligible prescribers can use the green PBS and RPBS computer-generated prescriptions.

Nurse practitioners, midwives, optometrists and dentists need to tick the ‘Prescriber type indicator’ check box that is located on the bottom left-hand side of the prescription form.

We no longer use different coloured forms for nurse practitioners or optometrists.

Our details are printed on the back of the prescription form instead of the prescriber or practice details.

Collaborative arrangements for nurse practitioners

Nurse practitioners must have collaborative arrangements in place to prescribe PBS medicines. A collaborative arrangement exists if you:

  • are employed or engaged by a medical practice that has at least 1 medical practitioner
  • see patients who’ve been referred to you by a medical practitioner
  • have a single agreement with a medical practitioner
  • maintain written records that show you work collaboratively with a medical practitioner

Certain medicines may also have additional conditions for prescribing by authorised nurse practitioners. These medicines are in the Schedule as:

  • Continuing Therapy Only (CTO) - where a medical practitioner starts treatment and prescribes medicine, but an authorised nurse practitioner continues prescribing
  • Shared Care Model (SCM) - where an authorised nurse practitioner and a medical practitioner share the care of a patient with an agreed management plan

You can check if a medicine is CTO or SCM by selecting the 'Note' information in the Schedule listed with the medicine. If you’re prescribing under CTO or SCM, you don’t need to note this information on the prescription.

Non-PBS prescriptions

You can use a prescription pad or computer-generated PBS prescription to write a non-PBS prescription. Make sure you cross out the PBS and RPBS boxes and endorse the prescription as non-PBS.

You must write a non-PBS prescription if you are prescribing:

  • outside the PBS restrictions - when your patient's clinical condition doesn’t match the indications listed in the Schedule
  • a quantity or number of repeats exceeding the maximum PBS quantity without an approved authority
  • a medicine, or form and strength of a medicine, not listed in the Schedule for a patient not entitled to PBS medicines
  • a medicine outside its PBS manner of administration. For example, a PBS eye ointment for topical non-ophthalmic use

More information

Read more about:

Contact us about PBS general enquiries and PBS authority telephone applications.

To give feedback on our education resources, contact us.

Page last updated: 22 February 2019

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