What is Active Ingredient Prescribing?

The Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) has changed legislation so that Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation PBS (RPBS) medicines must be prescribed by Doctors using the active ingredient names, instead of the brand name of a medicine.

This will help consumers understand the medicines they are taking.

What is an active ingredient?

Active ingredients are the ingredients in medicines that have an effect in the body. Examples include paracetamol, ibuprofen and insulin.

How will my prescriptions change?

Most PBS and RPBS medicines will be prescribed by active ingredient. If a prescriber includes a brand name on a prescription, the active ingredient will appear first.

Why is this change happening?

The goal of this initiative is to help people understand what medicines they are taking and to reduce the risk of people accidentally taking multiple doses of the same medicine under different names. Other benefits include allowing pharmacists to easily dispense an alternative generic medicine if the patient’s usual brand is unavailable and a potential reduction in out of pocket costs to patients and the PBS via increase uptake of generic medicines.

What are the benefits of active ingredient prescribing?

  • Supporting doctors and patients to better understand the active ingredients in their medicines;
  • Reducing the risk of patients taking multiple doses of medicines;
  • Encouraging pharmacists and patients to discuss generic medicines;
  • Promoting the uptake of generic and biosimilar medicines;
  • Decreasing out-of-pocket expenses;
  • Making the PBS more sustainable; and
  • Aligning Australia with international prescribing


Is Active Ingredient Prescribing mandatory?

Active Ingredient Prescribing became mandatory from 1 February 2021*

*The DoH has agreed to implement a Pharmacy Grace Period for 6 months until 31 July 2021. Within this period, pharmacy may still dispense and claim PBS and RPBS medicines without an AIP conformant prescription to ensure continued access to PBS/RPBS medicines is maintained for consumers. The DoH is actively monitoring the sector within this period to identify prescribers who have not updated their software and will work with prescribers to support this transition.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes, exceptions to active ingredient prescribing include:

  • Handwritten prescriptions
  • Paper-based medication charts in residential aged care settings
  • Medicines with four or more active ingredients
  • Non-medicinal items which don’t have active ingredients (e.g. dressings, nutritional products)
  • A small number of items that have been specifically excluded from active ingredient prescribing.

For more information about active ingredient prescribing see the Department of Health website.