Medicines safety

Active Ingredient Prescribing

Last revised: 26 Jun 2023

Active Ingredient Prescribing

Active Ingredient Prescribing (AIP) refers to the prescribing regulations requiring health practitioners issuing a prescription for a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicine to identify that medicine using the active ingredient, rather than the brand/generic/trade name.

This regulation came into effect on 31 October 2019, under The National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Amendment (Active Ingredient Prescribing) Regulations 2019.

Benefits of Active Ingredient Prescribing

The aims of Active ingredient prescribing (AIP) are to increase uptake of generic and biosimilar medicines and improve the long-term financial sustainability of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

AIP increases the number of prescriptions that allow for generic substitution, and aims to, increase patients’ willingness to agree to the supply of generic medicines instead of a branded version. AIP also allows patients to gain an increased understanding of the medicines they take.

This should reduce out-of-pocket expenses for patients and most importantly, reduce the risk of incorrect dosing where patients take multiple medicines that have the same active ingredient.

The benefits of AIP include:

  • increasing uptake of generic/biosimilar medicines
  • supporting the financial sustainability of the PBS
  • raising public awareness of generic medicines
  • supporting patients to better understand the medicines they are taking
  • decreasing out-of-pocket expenses for patients by promoting generic/biosimilar medicines
  • minimising the risk of incorrect dosing if patients take multiple medicines with the same active ingredient.

GPs and other prescribers are still able to prescribe by brand where clinically necessary, including, when the medication prescribed may pose a safety risk if the brand is not specified, or to promote compliance if the patient is familiar with a particular brand. However, in these situations, the name of the active ingredient must appear first on the PBS prescription.

There are some exceptions for prescriptions for medicines, including:

  • medicines with four or more active ingredients,
  • certain items that are excluded for practicality and safety reasons by the Secretary of the Department of Health.
  • AIP does not apply to handwritten prescriptions
  • paper-based medicines charts in hospitals and residential aged-care settings.


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