Prescribing

The Commonwealth government subsidises the cost of prescription medicines through two separate schemes, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) for eligible war veterans and their dependants. Medicines available under the PBS/RPBS and conditions of prescribing are listed in the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefists. Most of the listed medicines are prescribed by doctors, but other health professionals such as dentists are also eligible to prescribe. Dentists are not able to prescribe general PBS items, but have a separate Dental Schedule from which they can prescribe dental care medicines for their patients (Department of Health 2019a). 

The following PBS/RPBS data relate to dental prescriptions, categorised by the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) Classification System as listed in the PBS Schedule.

It is important to highlight that some medications (such as codeine with paracetamol and ibuprofen) were also available over the counter before 2017. Therefore data for these medicines will be incomplete as over the counter sales are not captured in the PBS/RPBS data. Also, people may be prescribed medications for dental conditions by other health professionals (e.g. GPs) that are not captured under the Dental Schedule.

Key terms

  • Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS): A national, government-funded scheme that subsidises the cost of a wide range of pharmaceutical drugs for all Australians to help them afford standard medications. The Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits lists all the medicinal products available under the PBS and explains the uses for which they can be subsidised.
  • Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS): An Australian government scheme, subsidised by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), that provides a range of pharmaceuticals and wound dressings at a concessional rate for the treatment of eligible veterans, war widows and widowers and their dependants.
  • Dental prescriptions: Dental care medicines listed on the Dental Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits that have been prescribed by dentists for their patients and supplied by pharmacies.

  • ATC: The Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) Classification System is used for the classification of active ingredients of drugs according to the organ or system on which they act and their therapeutic, pharmacological and chemical properties. 

  • The 10 most commonly dispensed dental prescriptions are categorised by ATC as follows:
        
    J01: Antibacterials for systemic use: amoxicillin, amoxicillin with clavulanic acid, cephalexin, clindamycin, erythromycin, metronidazole and phenoxymethylpenicillin. 
        
    M01: Antiinflammatory and antirheumatic products: ibuprofen.
        
    N02: Analgesics: codeine with paracetamol.
        
    N05: Psycholeptics: diazepam.

Number of dental prescriptions dispensed

Over 1 million dental precriptions were dispensed in Australia each year (2013–2017)

  • The number of dental prescriptions dispensed in Australia each year has decreased in recent years—from 1.09 million in 2013 to 1.03 million in 2017.

Explore the data using the Prescribing interactive 1 below.

Visualisation not available for printing

Ten most commonly dispensed dental prescriptions

The 10 most commonly dispensed medicines accounted for 98% of all dental prescriptions dispensed in 2017 

  • Amoxycillin was the most commonly dispensed medicine during the period 2013–2017, accounting for just over half of all dental items dispensed each year.
  • Amoxycillin was dispensed just over 524,000 times in Australia in 2017.
  • The second most commonly dispensed medicine during the period 2013–2017 was codeine with paracetamol, accounting for around one-sixth of dental items dispensed each year.
  • Codeine with paracetamol was dispensed around 171,000 times in Australia in 2017.

Explore the data using the Prescribing interactive 2 below.

Visualisation not available for printing

Characteristics of patients dispensed dental prescriptions

Most dental prescriptions were dispensed to females (2013–2017)

In 2017, more dental prescriptions were dispensed to females (around 514,000 or 50%) than males (around 461,000 or 45%) or those whose sex was unknown (around 56,000 or 5.5%).

Most dental prescriptions were dispensed to patients aged 45–64 years (2013–2017)

In 2017, the number of dental prescriptions dispensed to patients was:

  • highest for those aged 45–64 years (around 347,000 or 34%)
  • lowest for those aged 0–4 years (around 3,000 or 0.3%).

PBS patients fall into two broad categories: general and concessional. Concessional patients include Pensioner Concession Card holders, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders, Health Care Card holders and DVA Pension Card holders. General patients do not hold any of the aforementioned cards. RPBS (or repatriation) patients hold DVA White, Gold or Orange Cards (Department of Health 2019b)

Most dental prescriptions were dispensed to general patients (2013–2017) 

  • In 2017, around 361,000 (35%) dental prescriptions were dispensed to concessional patients and around 660,000 (64%) dental prescriptions were dispensed to general patients.
  • In 2017, around 8,400 (1%) dental prescriptions were dispensed to repatriation patients.

Explore the data using the Prescribing interactive 3 below.

Visualisation not available for printing

References