Dispensing frequency

On 1 August we returned most medicines to “all-at-once” dispensing. We are monitoring stockpiling behaviour and will amend the dispensing rules again if necessary.

Updated: 19 August 2020

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We are monitoring the COVID-19 situation

We put temporary restrictions in place on 27 March 2020 to manage medicine supply during New Zealand's response to COVID-19. We removed most of the temporary restrictions at 11.59pm on Friday 31 July 2020. 

Medicine supply chains are secure, and pharmacies will remain open throughout all alert levels so there is no need to stockpile medicines. 

We’re asking prescribers to prescribe normally and encourage patients not to stockpile medicines. 

Stockpiling puts a major strain on supply chains. Unlike supermarkets, who are able to re-stock from New Zealand manufacturers, medicines are mostly sourced from overseas suppliers and the ability to re-stock quickly is very limited.  

We need to ensure that every New Zealander will continue to have access to the medicines they need and that vulnerable communities don’t miss out.  

If stockpiling behaviour continues PHARMAC will consider re-instating monthly dispensing on many medicines. We would prefer not to do that because it means people have to visit pharmacies more often.

Current restrictions

Most medicines were returned “all-at-once” dispensing on 1 August 2020, but there are some restrictions.

Medicines that were on monthly dispensing before 27 March 2020 can continue to be dispensed monthly. This includes paracetamol.

Some restrictions will continue 

Medicines that were on monthly dispensing before 27 March 2020 will continue to be dispensed monthly. This includes paracetamol.

Read about the paracetamol restrictions

In addition, 17 medicines will remain on restricted dispensing due to supply issue.

Note: To check the status of medicines as at 1 March 2020, download the Excel spreadsheet version of the Schedule for that month. Medicines without a ❋ or ▲ in the "flag" column were on monthly dispensing.  

Find a list of all Excel versions of the Schedule(external link)  

Sufficient stock

Following consultation with suppliers, distributors and wholesalers, we removed the dispensing restrictions for most medicines on 1 August 2020. We are confident that there is sufficient stock in New Zealand of most medicines.

However, COVID-19 continues to disrupt supply chains and manufacturing overseas. We may need to apply temporary dispensing restrictions to medicines to manage any future supply issues. 

There is no need for New Zealanders to stockpile medicines at home. PHARMAC works closely with suppliers to ensure that every New Zealander has access to the medicines they need.

Information for people taking medicine and their whānau

Repeat prescriptions

If you have remaining repeats to collect from the pharmacy after 1 August 2020, you do not need a new prescription. You only need to get a new prescription when your repeats are finished. 

We have asked pharmacists to dispense remaining repeats in one-month quantities where possible. This will help manage the supply of medicines as we transition back to all-at-once dispensing. We apologise if this causes any inconvenience.

You only need to pay the $5 dispensing fee once.

Information for prescribers and pharmacists 

We would like to thank pharmacists and prescribers who have worked hard during recent months to help ensure the continuity of supply of medicines.

Medicines remaining on monthly dispensing

Medicines that were on monthly dispensing before 27 March 2020 will continue to be dispensed monthly. 

In addition, the 16 medicines listed above will remain on monthly dispensing due to supply issues. 

Please dispense current repeats in monthly lots

Where someone has repeats due, we ask that you use your discretion to continue to dispense the rest of the prescription in monthly lots. This is to help smooth the effect that the return to stat dispensing will have on our supply chains.

Rule 4.2 gives you the power to do this

Dispense all at once where needed

We acknowledge that there will always be times when your customers need stat dispensing, even when there are dispensing restrictions. This includes for people who:

  • have mobility issues
  • live rurally
  • are immunocompromised
  • are elderly.

Rule 4.4 gives you the power to do this

Supply chains remain affected by COVID-19

If necessary, we will introduce wholesale dispensing restrictions again.  

Who to contact

If you have questions about these changes, you can: