Palliative care-related prescriptions

In 2022–23, 1.3 million palliative care-related prescriptions were dispensed, averaging at 2.9 prescriptions per person. For these palliative care-related prescriptions (Figure 1): 

  • More prescriptions were dispensed to females than males (760,000 and 576,000, respectively) – averaging at 3.0 prescriptions per females and 2.8 per males, consistent with the higher number of females receiving these prescriptions.
  • The number of prescriptions per person increased steadily from age 15–24 (1.6 prescriptions per person) to age 75–84 (3.3 prescriptions per person) and dropped slightly to 3.2 prescriptions per person for those aged 85 and over.
  • The average prescriptions per person ranged from 2.5 prescriptions per person in Northern Territory to 3.4 prescriptions per person in Tasmania. The different age distribution across the states and territories may contribute to this variation – Northern Territory had the lowest proportion and Tasmania had a high proportion of people aged 65 and over (ABS 2023).
  • 8 in 10 (78%) prescriptions were for pain relief – equating to 1.0 million prescriptions or 2.9 prescriptions per person. The next most common prescription types were for gastrointestinal symptoms and neurological symptoms (about 10% each). For further details on these prescriptions, see Technical information: Data sources – May release.

Pain relief medications

Pain management is an integral component of quality palliative care. Pain-relieving medications are often used in conjunction with other strategies. It can be due to a life-limiting illness, its treatment, debility or comorbid illnesses. For further information, see Therapeutic Guidelines: Palliative Care

In 2022–23, of the 1.0 million pain relief prescriptions (Table 6 and Figure 1):

  • The most common type of pain relief medications was opioids (39%), followed by other analgesics and antipyretics (37%) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and antirheumatic products (24%).
  • 1 in 2 (53%) other analgesics and antipyretics prescriptions were repeat scripts, compared with 1 in 3 (32%) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and antirheumatic prescriptions and 1 in 7 (15%) opioids prescriptions.

Note that some pain relief medicines could be bought 'over the counter' (OTC), which means that people do not need a prescription from the doctor to access them. These medications are not included in this report. For further details on the coverage and scope of PBS and RPBS, see Technical information – Data sources for May release.

Figure 1: Prescriptions from PBS Palliative Care Schedule, 2022–23

This dashboard shows data on palliative care-related medications including pain relief, by selected characteristics and medication groups in 2022–23.


ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2023) Regional population by age and sex, ABS, Australian Government, accessed 10 March 2024.