Prescribing drugs of dependence in general practice, Part A

3. General practice systems of care
3.8 Using information – Government resources
☰ Table of contents

Practices should facilitate GP access to information management data designed to monitor potential prescription drug abuse.

Prescription Shopping Program

The Medicare Australia Prescription Shopping Program (PSP) is designed to identify those who are obtaining PBS pharmaceuticals in excess of medical need.39

There are two key elements to the PSP:

  • The Prescription Shopping Information Service (PSIS) is available to registered prescribers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It provides information on the prescription history of people identified by the program and is accurate up to the last 24 hours. The phone number is 1800 631 181.
  • The alert service provides GPs with a letter and a PBS Patient Summary Report notifying them when they have prescribed to a patient of concern. The patient is notified when PBS medicine may have been supplied in excess of medical need.

The PSP can disclose some details to the prescriber if their patient has been identified. Once registered with the scheme, prescribers can call a hotline to find out if their patient has been identified under the PSP.39

The PSP does not provide real-time medication history nor does it provide information about private prescriptions or those written by specialists. Some coroners’ reports detail how prescription shoppers do not meet the reporting thresholds of the scheme in some cases, and hence may falsely reassure GPs.


Medicare and PBS information releases

The Department of Human Services (DHS) holds information such as PBS and Medicare claim history for up to 5 years. GPs can request consent for release of this information by completing a freedom of information form along with a written letter to Medicare Australia, providing the same information as required on the form. This must be on appropriate letterhead and must include patient consent. Further consent is required for Medicare Australia to release this information to a third party (eg an insurance company).

Note that there may be significant delays in receiving requested material.

For further information, visit:

Pharmaceutical services units

Local PSUs may be able to inform GPs if a patient is listed as drug dependent. The duty pharmaceutical officer can provide general advice on handling drug-seeking patients and whether another doctor holds an authority to prescribe an S8 medication for a patient. PSU websites contain information about handling drug-dependent patients.

Doctors are encouraged to phone both the PSIS and their local PSU to obtain information about a patient's drug prescription history - especially when it is a new patient.

Refer to Appendix C.2  of the PDF version for PSU contact details.

  1. Medicare Australia. Prescription Shopping Program 2014. [Accessed January 2014].