Active Ingredient Prescribing

Active ingredient prescribing is an initiative to support the uptake of generic and biosimilar medicines and improve the health literacy of consumers and prescribers around the active ingredient in medicines. 

In October 2019 the National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Amendment (Active Ingredient Prescribing) Regulations 2019, and the Veterans’ Affairs Pharmaceutical Benefits Schemes (Electronic Prescriptions and Active Ingredient Prescribing) Amendment Instrument 2019 mandated active ingredient prescribing.

Active ingredient prescribing will increase consumer health literacy around their medicines; improve safe and quality use of medicines with consistent and standardised descriptions of medicines; and promote the uptake of generic and biosimilar medicines as described in the Australian Government’s 2018-19 Budget.

Implementation and principles
From 1 February 2021 most prescriptions for supply under the PBS and the RPBS must describe the medicine by active ingredient name to be eligible for subsidy.

Prescribing using the active ingredient name is safe in the majority of prescribing situations where available brands are therapeutically equivalent. The brand name should be included after the active ingredient on prescriptions where clinically necessary. A set of principles determine the limited, but clinically important exceptions to this approach; particularly important for some high-risk medicines and/or for high-risk consumers. The principles of active ingredient prescribing extend to all prescriptions, including private prescriptions.

Clinical support documents
Four documents have been developed to support clinicians with active ingredient prescribing:

Fact sheet or brochure

Guide, user guide or guidelines

Guide, user guide or guidelines

Guide, user guide or guidelines

The LMBC (Appendix 1) and the LEMI (Appendix 2) are appendices to the Active ingredient prescribing User guide for Australian prescribers. In these appendices the active ingredient is described by the International Non-proprietary Name (INN)[1]. Tall Man lettering is applied consistent with the Commission's National Tall Man Lettering List[2].

The Commission will review the LMBC and the LEMI and publish updates at regular intervals.

External resources
NPS MedicineWise have developed active ingredient prescribing resources for prescribers and pharmacists, as well as a suite of consumer resources on topics such as medicines and brand names, consumer medicine information and managing medicines. Visit the NPS MedicineWise website for more information.

[1] International Nonproprietary Names Programme and Classification of Medical Products. Available from [Accessed 17 December 2020]

[2] Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. National Tall Man Lettering List. Sydney: ACSQHC; 2020. Available from [Accessed 17 December 2020]