Telegrams and Dispensing Schedule 4 Drugs in Emergency Cases

In most Poison’s and Pharmacy Acts and Regulations in Australia there is the ability to give an emergency supply of medication. Within pharmacy it is usually a three day emergency supply. However should the prescriber contact you you can supply and the prescriber must supply a prescription shortly after.

telegram boys

Here is the relevant regulation within the Western Australia’s Poisons Regulations

38 . Dispensing poisons included in Schedule 4 in emergency cases

Where a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, dentist or veterinary surgeon in a case of emergency orally or by telephone or telegram directs the dispensing of a poison included in Schedule 4, he shall forthwith write a prescription complying with the conditions prescribed in regulation 37, mark such prescription to show that it has been given as a confirmation of instructions given by him orally or by telephone or telegram, and despatch such prescription within 24 hours to the person to whom the instructions were given.

[Regulation 38 amended in Gazette 19 Mar 1996 p. 1222; amended by Act No. 9 of 2003 s. 46.]

Now I was going to make a smart alec remark about receiving an old fashioned telegram to urgently dispense a medication. A telegram in the 21st Century? Yeah Right. But it seems they have a niche market. Australia Post still provides a telegram service. I like how you can organise the telegram by phone or over the internet.

When it’s special, send a TELeGRAM. Some messages are too important for a phone call and too special for email.

That’s how Australia Post markets it. But it goes on.

The TELeGRAM combines new age demands with old world charm to offer you a quick, convenient way to send a message that matters.

Create your messages on-line, select from a range of images, and we print and post a hard copy of your special message to any delivery point within Australia.

I love it. I want a doctor to send their local pharmacist a drug order by telegram. And I want a camera there to see the response. I wonder if singing telegrams or gorilla-grams are also legitimate ways for ordering medications in an emergency.

Australia Post and Supply of Medications

If you live out bush one of the few regular personal contacts you have is with the contractor providing a regular Australia Post particularly if they arrive at your property by air. The Royal Flying Doctor Service may land regularly for a clinic or perhaps only visit when you are ill.

I want you to imagine that you or a loved one live out bush hundreds of kilometres from the nearest health service or hospital. Perhaps you are dying but want to do it pain free and with dignity at home in your remote community/station. Perhaps you are suffering from severe pain from an injury but you no longer need to be in hospital. Perhaps you have a child with behavioural problems and need a supply of dexamphetamine sent out regularly.

Well according to Australia Post it is just bad luck. They won’t send them to you.

This concern recently raised it’s head over on the Auspharm List:

What is the legislation with posting medicines in particular scheduled medicines and schedule 8’s. Am getting conflicting information from drugs of dependence unit and Australia Post.

Personally I’d trust the advice of the Drug of Dependence Unit. That’s what they are good at. Legislation on narcotic and other Schedule 8 medications.

For those not familiar with Australia’s Poison schedules here is a definition:

Schedule 8. Controlled Drug – Substances which should be available for use but require restriction of manufacture, supply, distribution, possession and use to reduce abuse, misuse and physical or psychological dependence.

Apparently Australia Post think it is against the law, specifically their controlling legislation “Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989“.

Also, and this is third hand, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia looked at this in the past and decided that though State laws allow postage of S8 items, the federal statutes overrode them.

So what is the law.

Australia Post Terms and Conditions states:

63.1 A poison, drug or medicine which is a narcotic substance shall not be lodged for carriage by post nor carried by post.

Clicking on narcotic substance links through on the Australia Post site to its definition.

narcotic substance has the same meaning as in the Customs Act 1901.

The Customs Act 1901 defines a “narcotic substance” as:

“narcotic substance” means a border controlled drug or a border controlled plant.

and further describes a

“border controlled drug” has the same meaning as in Part 9.1 of the Criminal Code .

The Criminal Code defines a border controlled drug as (from the Victorian Law Book)

Narcotic drugs in Australian law are Border Controlled Drugs

Not a legal drug listed.

Australia Post has it wrong. It is legal to send prescription Schedule 8 items through the mail. I’d say someone has had a look at the term “narcotic” but didn’t bother to see what it meant in a legal sense. If the Pharmaceutical Society did look at this issue in the past then they have ballsed it up. I will be writing to both to try and have this corrected.

Australia is one of the most urbanised countries in the world. I have heard it said 0.1% of us live in 50% of the country. The more remote you get the worse the health outcomes. I’d hate to see a misunderstanding of a legal term denying people in the bush.

For those of you wondering what a Drug of Dependence Unit does go have a look.

Indigenous Culture Postage Stamps from Australia Post


indigenous_stamp Australia Post has released a new Postage Stamp series titled “Indigenous Culture”. The stamps reproduce indigenous art from five living indigenous artists from works held in our public collections.

Four of the paintings are by women artists.

The artists and communities where they lived are:

  • Judy Napangardi Watson – Yuendumu NT
  • Tjuruparu Watson – Irrunytju (Wingellina) WA
  • Jan Billycan – Bidyadanga WA
  • Elaine Russell – Lake Cargelligo NSW
  • Nura Rupert – Ernabella SA
  • Visit one of my local indigenous controlled art centres here

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