Prescriptions

States and territories

The Australian Capital Territory (658.2 subsidised and 1,392.7 subsidised and under co-payment prescriptions per 1,000 population) had the lowest rate of PBS and RPBS prescriptions per 1,000 population for both subsidised and subsidised and under co-payment prescriptions in 2018–19 (with the exception of the Northern Territory; see Figure PBS.4, and the associated note). Tasmania had the highest rate of prescriptions (1,430.7 subsidised and 2,093.4 subsidised and under co-payment prescriptions per 1,000 population). These patterns were similar to the patient rates (see Figure PBS.1).

Figure PBS.4: Mental health-related prescriptions (per 1,000 population), by states and territories 2018-19.

Bar chart showing rate of mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised and under co-payment) per 1,000 population by jurisdiction in 2018–19. Subsidised prescription rates: NSW (896.9), Vic (935.1), Qld (1,075.2), WA (922.1), SA (1,171.0), Tas (1,430.7), ACT (658.2), NT (335.5), National total (971.5). Subsidised and under co-payment prescription rates: NSW (1,408.6), Vic (1,499.3), Qld (1,707.0), WA (1,562.8), SA (1,734.8), Tas (2,093.4), ACT (1,392.7), and NT (699.6), National total (1,548.2). Refer to Table PBS.6.

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Source data: XLS DownloadXLS DownloadMental health-related prescriptions (93KB XLS)

Note: A proportion of the Australian Government subsidy of pharmaceuticals in remote Aboriginal communities (primarily the Northern Territory) is funded through the Aboriginal Health Service program, where medications are supplied directly to patients and hence are not included in this data. Therefore data presented for the Northern Territory are considered to be an underestimate.

Prescription characteristics

Of the 39.0 million mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised and under co-payment) provided in 2018–19, the majority (86.3%) were prescribed by general practitioners (GPs), with another 7.7% prescribed by psychiatrists and 4.5% by non-psychiatrist specialists. These proportions were similar for subsidised prescriptions.

The majority of subsidised and under co-payment mental health-related prescriptions were for Antidepressants (70.9%, or 27.6 million) in 2018–19, followed by Antipsychotics (10.7%), Anxiolytics (9.0%), Hypnotics and sedatives (5.6%) and Psychostimulants, agents used for ADHD and nootropics (3.8%) (Figure PBS.5). Among the categories of medications, the majority of prescriptions were issued by GPs, except for Psychostimulants, agents used for ADHD and nootropics. Similar patterns were observed for subsidised prescriptions.

FIgure PBS.5: Mental health-related prescriptions (subsidiseed and under co-payment), by type of medication and prescribing medical practitioner, 2018-19.

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, 2018–19. Antidepressants were prescribed by: GPs (25.1 million), non-psychiatrist specialists (0.7), psychiatrists (1.6). Antipsychotics: 3.1, 0.1, 0.7. Anxiolytics: 3.2, 0.1, 0.2. Hypnotics and sedatives: 2.0, 0.1, 0.1. Psychostimulants, agents used for ADHD and nootropics: 0.3, 0.8, 0.4. Refer to Table PBS.6.

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Source data: XLS DownloadXLS DownloadMental health-related prescriptions (93KB XLS)

Antidepressants and Antipsychotics had the highest average number of subsidised and under co-payment prescriptions per patient (8.7 and 8.6, respectively) in 2018–19. Psychostimulants, agents used for ADHD and nootropics had the least number of prescriptions dispensed, but had the third highest rate of prescriptions per patient (7.2). A similar pattern was observed for subsidised prescriptions.

Females had a higher rate of subsidised and under co-payment mental health-related prescriptions (1,847.1 per 1,000 population) than males (1,223.2) in 2018–19. Of the age groups, the lowest prescription rate was for those aged 0–4 years (4.0 per 1,000 population), with the rate increasing by age group to 4,307.9 for those aged 85 years and over. For remoteness areas, while the majority of mental health-related prescriptions were for people living in Major cities (67.2%), people living in Inner regional areas had the highest prescription rate (1,977.1 per 1,000 population), followed by people living in Outer regional areas (1,687.5). The variation in prescription rates among demographic groups was broadly consistent with the number of people receiving mental health-related prescriptions (see Figure PBS.2).

Over time

For the period 2014–15 to 2018–19, the rate (per 1,000 population) of subsidised and under co-payment mental health-related prescriptions increased from 1,456.3 to 1,548.2, an average annual increase of 1.5%. In contrast, the rate of PBS and RPBS subsidised prescriptions decreased over the same period from 1,018.8 to 971.5 per 1,000 population, an average annual decrease of 1.2% (Figure PBS.6).

Information on the Government spend on subsidised PBS and RPBS scripts is available in the Expenditure on mental health services section.

Figure PBS.6: Rate (per 1,000 population) of  mental health-related prescriptions 2004-05 to 2018-19.

Line chart showing the rate of mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised only) per 1,000 population between 2005–06 and 2018–19. 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, 975.6 for 2017–18 and 971.5 for 2018–19. 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, 1,505.9 for 2016–17, 1,523.3 for 2017–18 and 1,548.2 for 2018–19. Refer to Table PBS.7.

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Source data: XLS DownloadMental health-related prescriptions (93KB XLS)

Regional reporting

Information on subsidised and under co-payment mental health-related prescriptions can also be reported at the sub-jurisdictional level, within state and territory boundaries.

Sub-jurisdictional data for 2018–19 are included with the data downloads for this section (Table PBS.10 and Table PBS.11). This data shows variation in the number and rate of prescriptions and patients across Australia’s 31 Primary Health Network (PHN) areas, as well as at the Statistical Area 3 (SA3) region level. For the analysis presented here, geographical area is based on the patient's residential address, or, if the patient’s address is unknown, the location of the supplying pharmacy is used.

The Geelong and Wyong SA3 regions had the highest number of subsidised and under co-payment mental health-related prescriptions dispensed in 2018–19 (406,871 and 354,868 prescriptions, respectively), while the Tasmanian Central Highlands SA3 region had the highest rate of prescriptions dispensed (3057.8 per 1,000 of the specific population), followed by the Adelaide City SA3 region (2960.1).

Similarly, the Geelong and Wyong SA3 regions had the highest number of patients receiving subsidised and under co-payment mental health-related prescriptions in 2018–19 (42,106 and 38,337 patients, respectively). The Tasmanian Central Highlands SA3 region had the highest rate of patients receiving prescriptions (29.8% of the specific population), followed by the Bribie – Beachmere SA3 and South East Coast SA3 regions (26.6% of the respective populations).