‘I don’t have a script. Can I have an emergency supply of gabapentin for my cat?’

Emergency supply of medicines allows a pharmacist, in an emergency without a prescription, to initiate a small quantity supply (usually 3 days’ worth) of a Prescription Only Medicine (S4) for a patient when it’s not possible to contact the prescriber.

Under this arrangement there is no requirement for a follow-up prescription. These long-standing provisions existed within state/territory regulation prior to COVID-19 and remain in place separately to Continued Dispensing provisions. ‘

However, can this apply to a cat, dog or farm animal? Can you facilitate a request for emergency supply without a prescription for veterinary use?

Unless you are in Western Australia, the short answer is no.

Every other state and territory specifies supply under emergency supply provisions can only be made in relation to the treatment of a person (see Box 1).

This means emergency supply without a prescription or valid written order cannot be made for veterinary use.

What about WA?

In Western Australia, Regulation 30 of the Medicines and Poisons Regulations 2016 permits the supply of up to 3 days’ regular treatment for an animal if the pharmacist is satisfied on reasonable grounds that it is needed for an animal under regular treatment of the medicines, it is not practical for a prescription to be obtained, and interruption to therapy is likely to cause harm to the animal.

Outside of WA, are there exceptions?

In NSW, Regulation 48 of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 permits pharmacists to supply, without prescription, benzylpenicillin for IM injection into an animal.

The person seeking the treatment must satisfy the pharmacist that it is needed for the urgent treatment of an animal and that, under the circumstances, it is not practicable to obtain a prescription authorising its supply.

In an unusual provision, the pharmacist cannot supply under this regulation to a person not known to them – unless they are accompanied by a person known to the pharmacist who can identify the unknown person.

How can I support people who request emergency supply of medicines for an animal without a prescription?

Similar to referring people to a prescriber for human health where emergency supply isn’t permitted, the best option will usually be to refer the person requesting the medicine to a vet.

Some vets offer after-hours services, including some 24-hour services in major metropolitan centres.

If requests are common, consider having these details handy to provide on request.

Box 1 – Background: Emergency supply regulations

ACT S251–S254, Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008
NSW Clauses 7, 45, Appendix A, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008
NT Section 59, Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2012
QLD Section 158, Medicines and Poisons (Medicines) Regulation 2021
SA Regulation 22, Controlled Substances (Poisons) Regulations 2011 (SA)
TAS Regulation 53, Poisons Regulations 2018
VIC Regulation 56, Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017
WA Regulations 29, 30, Medicines and Poisons Regulations 2016 (WA)

Further Information

More information about emergency supply provisions can be found on the PSA COVID-19 microsite.