Key concepts

Mental health-related prescriptions

Key concept Description
Mental health‑related medications Mental health‑related medications are defined in this section as 5 selected medication groups as classified in the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) Classification System (WHO 2018), namely antipsychotics (code N05A), anxiolytics (code N05B), hypnotics and sedatives (code N05C), antidepressants (code N06A), and psychostimulants and nootropics (code N06B)—prescribed by all medical practitioners (that is, general practitioners (GPs), non‑psychiatrist specialists and psychiatrists).
Patient co-payment Under the PBS/RPBS the cost of prescription medicines is subsidised by the Commonwealth government. Patients are classified as either general or concessional, and are required to pay a patient co-payment towards the cost of their prescription according to their patient status. At 1 January 2019 the co-payment was $40.30 (general) and $6.50 (concessional).
Prescriptions The information on prescriptions in this section is sourced from the processing of the PBS/RPBS and refers to medications prescribed by medical practitioners and subsequently dispensed by approved suppliers (community pharmacies or hospital pharmacies). Consequently, it is a count of prescriptions dispensed rather than a count of the prescriptions written by medical practitioners. 
Subsidised prescriptions

A PBS/RPBS prescription is subsidised when the dispensed price of a medication exceeds the patient co-payment. The PBS/RPBS covers the difference between the full cost of the medication and the patient co-payment.

Under co-payment prescriptions

A PBS/RPBS prescription is classified as under co-payment when there is no government subsidy as the dispensed price of the prescription does not exceed the patient co-payment, and the patient pays the full cost of the medication. 



WHO 2018. ATC: Structure and principles. Oslo: WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology. Viewed 4 February 2019.

Alternative text for Mental health-related prescription figures

Figure PBS.1

Bar chart showing the per cent of patients receiving mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised and subsidised and under co-payment) by states and territories in 2017–18. New South Wales had 9.2% of the population receiving subsidised prescriptions, Vic (9.3%), Qld (10.6%), WA (9.1%), SA (11.6%), Tas (14.1%), ACT (6.7%), NT (3.8%), Australian total (9.7%). When considering subsidised and under co-payment prescriptions: NSW (15.8%), Vic (16.2%), Qld (18.4%), WA (17.1%), SA (18.7%), Tas (21.8%), ACT (15.5%), NT (8.8%), Australia total (16.8%). Refer to Table PBS.2. Back to Figure PBS.1.

Figure PBS.2

Horizontal bar chart showing the per cent of people receiving mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised and under co-payment), by patient demographics for 2017–2018. Rates were lowest for people aged less than 15 years (2.6% age specific population) gradually increasing to the highest rate for those 65 years and over (31.5%). The proportion of females (20.0% respective population) receiving prescriptions was higher than males (13.6%). Rates varied among patient residence: Inner regional areas had the greatest proportion (20.7% of the Inner regional population), followed by people living in Outer regional areas (18.1%), Major cities (16.1%), Remote (12.6%) then Very remote (7.0%). Refer to Table PBS. 4. Back to figure PBS.2.

Figure PBS.3

Line chart showing the percent of patients receiving mental health-related subsidised prescriptions by year. In 2005–06 11.7% of the population had received mental health related subsidised prescriptions. This rate has declined, with 9.7% of the population receiving one of these prescriptions in 2017–2018. The percent of people receiving subsidised and under co-payment prescriptions increased from 15.9% in 2012–13 to 16.8% in 2017–2018. Refer to Table PBS.3.. Back to figure PBS.3.

Figure PBS.4

Bar chart showing rate of mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised and under co-payment) per 1,000 population by jurisdiction in 2017–2018. Subsidised prescription rates: NSW (900.0), Vic (952.6), Qld (1,071.5), WA (903.6), SA (1,175.0), Tas (1,429.8), ACT (649.2), NT (329.3), National total (975.8).  Subsidised and under co-payment prescription rates: NSW (1,384.4), Vic (1,489.8), Qld (1,669.7), WA (1,517.5), SA (1,711.4), Tas (2,045.3), ACT (1,343.3), and NT (670.1), National total (1,523.6). Refer to Table PBS.3. Back to figure PBS.4.

Figure PBS.5

Stacked horizontal bar chart showing the number of mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised & under co-payment), by ATC group of medication and prescribing medical practitioner, 2017–18. Antidepressants were prescribed by: GPs 23.9 million, non-psychiatrist specialists 0.7, psychiatrists 1.6. Antipsychotics: 3.2, 0.1, 0.8. Anxiolytics : 3.3, 0.1, 0.2. Hypnotics and sedatives: 2.1, 0.1, 0.1. Psychostimulants and nootropics: 0.2, 0.7, 0.4. Refer to Table PBS.6. Back to figure PBS.5.

Figure PBS.6

Line chart showing the rate of mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised only) per 1,000 population between 2005–06 and 2017–18. Rates of subsidised prescriptions: 1,015.6 for 2005–06, 973.2 for 2007–08, 1,011.4 for 2009–10, 1,053.1 for 2011–12, 1,042.2 for 2013–14, 1,001.0 for 2015–16, and 975.8 for 2017–18. Rates for subsidised and co-payment prescriptions: 1,378.5 for 2012–13, 1,424.6 for 2013–14, 1,456.3 for 2014–15, 1,487.0 for 2015–16, 1,506.3 for 2016–17, 1,523.6 for 2017–18. Refer to Table PBS.7. Back to figure PBS.6.