Look locally before buying overseas prescription medicines online – it could save your life and your wallet

NPS MedicineWise is urging Australians to explore all local options with their healthcare professional before buying medicines online.

NPS MedicineWise is urging Australians to explore all local options with their specialist or healthcare professional before buying medicines online that have not yet been approved in Australia.

Chief Executive of NPS MedicineWise, Dr Lynn Weekes said that while many websites do require an Australian prescription, if the right questions are asked during consultation with their doctor, patients may find that it is more cost effective to source these medicines through their GP or specialist, or that equal or more effective medicines are available in Australia and subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

“In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) Special Access Scheme allows prescribers to apply to import medicines which are not available in Australia on a case-by-case basis.

“This should be the avenue for consumers who are seeking treatment with medicines not available in Australia because it requires informed consent, which means patients need to know all the pros and cons, including the cost implications, in conversation with their healthcare professional before proceeding,” Dr Weekes said.

There are many reasons why some medicines are not available in Australia, including whether or not the manufacturer decides to release the medicine on the Australian market.

Once approved for sale in Australia, the TGA monitors the medicines for adverse events, interactions and side effects providing a support system designed to protect and inform prescribers and patients.

“Australian doctors may not be familiar with medicines that aren’t available in Australia. That is why we encourage people to explore all local options with their healthcare provider first through a meaningful conversation between doctor and patient where the right questions are asked,” said Dr Weekes.

NPS MedicineWise facilitates the Choosing Wisely Australia initiative which encourages better conversations between patients and healthcare professionals.

One of the tools of the Choosing Wisely initiative is the “5 Questions to ask your doctor” resource which helps consumers to have a meaningful conversation with their healthcare provider about their options.

“Asking questions such as: “What are the risks?,” “Are there simpler safer options?” and “What are the financial and emotional costs?” could help patients find local medicines or treatments that are safer, more cost-effective and equally or more effective than medicines not available in Australia,” Dr Weekes said.

This resource is available for download on the Choosing Wisely website www.choosingwisely.org.au

“If it is decided that a medicine not available in Australia is the best option, applying through the TGA’s Special Access Scheme is the safest and most cost effective method to access these medicines,” Dr Weekes said.


Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS MedicineWise enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests. We receive funding by the Australian Government Department of Health.

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