Nurse prescribers now able to initiate Special Authority medicines

Media release Medicines

Joint media release with the Ministry of Health

A change to prescribing rules will make it easier for almost 100,000 New Zealanders to get the medicines they need, according to both the Ministry of Health’s Chief Nursing Officer Lorraine Hetaraka and PHARMAC’s Director of Operations Lisa Williams.

From 1 July 2021 nurse prescribers will become eligible to initiate and renew a special authority for medicines they are authorised to prescribe. This means they will be able to apply, on behalf of their patient, for a government subsidy on a prescription medicine.

Some medicines are only funded under certain conditions. To receive funded access to these medicines, a Special Authority approval is required.

“This change means that patients won’t necessarily need to wait for their GP or specialist doctor to sign off much-needed prescriptions for these medicines,” Ms Hetaraka says.

“Registered nurse prescribers are already allowed to prescribe from a list of medicines. More medicines may get added to this list. We are making the change to allow them to initiate or renew the subsidy approval for their patients as well,” Ms Williams says.

“Being able to start patients on medicines straight away will make better use of nurse prescribers’ expertise and time,” Ms Hetaraka says.

Ms Williams adds: “We wanted to do this to help more people get access to the medicines they need. With more healthcare professionals able to initiate a Special Authority, there is a greater opportunity for people to be started on a medicine.”

Before now, a patient who needed a Special Authority to get a funded medicine would have to see a doctor separately, or the nurse prescriber would need to ask a doctor to apply for it.

In many cases the change will free up time for doctors and it could ultimately provide more equitable and timely access to healthcare for patients, especially in rural areas.

The Ministry of Health and PHARMAC have worked together to make the change. The Ministry updated the relevant IT systems to permit nurse prescribers to apply for a Special Authority, and PHARMAC updated the Pharmaceutical Schedule rules to allow nurse prescribers to apply.