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Pharmacist reading medical cannabis prescription and processing cbd products for patient

Pharmacists should know how to fill alternative medicine prescriptions with ease and confidence, so Canview have put together some expert tips for pharmacies to dispense alternative medicine.

With nearly 39,000 patient approvals granted for alternative treatments in the first four months of 2022, compared to 31,000 approvals in 2021 and 14,000 in 2020, the number of pharmacies receiving alternative medicine scripts continues to skyrocket.

Graph illustrating number of medical cannabis pharmacies, patients from 2020 to 2022

Keep reading this blog or skip to a specific tip using the links below to get some insider advice on how to dispense alternative medicine in your pharmacy.

    1. Understand the difference between dispensing alternative medicine and other medicines
    2. Familiarise yourself with the alternative therapy dispensing process
    3. Open an alternative medicine wholesale account
    4. Learn the packing, storing and recording requirements for alternative medicine
    5. Understand the requirements to dispense alternative medicine


Tip 1: Understand the difference between dispensing alternative medicine and other medicines

Most alternative therapy products are currently classified as either Schedule 4 (S4) or Schedule 8 (S8) medicines. If your pharmacy is already set up to dispense S8 medicines, filling alternative medicine prescriptions should be straightforward.

To dispense S8 medicines, your pharmacy must meet the following legal requirements:

  • Dispensing pharmacists must not have any undertakings by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) on their registration.
  • Dispensing pharmacies must meet all requirements and have the appropriate processes for ordering, storing, dispensing, recording, reporting and disposing of unwanted or expired Schedule 8 drugs according to their state or territory legislation.
  • Dispensing pharmacies must meet all other state/territory health department specific requirements. Please ensure you review these requirements regularly as they may continue to change.

medical cannabis pharmacist processing medical marijuana prescription for patient

To dispense alternative treatment prescriptions, there are a few additional requirements to which pharmacists must adhere, including:

  • Only dispense alternative medicine in accordance with a prescription.
  • The pharmacist must verify the prescriber of any alternative medicine product.
  • All alternative treatment products must be ordered on a per-patient basis against a valid Special Access Scheme B (SAS-B) approval except for prescriptions written by Authorised Prescribers which can be consolidated and ordered per doctor via their relevant AP Approval).
  • Comply with the Guidelines for Dispensing of Medicines published by the Pharmacy Board of Australia.
  • Comply with any conditions imposed on a TGA approval relating to the alternative medicine product(s) being used.
  • Comply with all reporting and recording requirements, as set down by the Medicines and Poisons (Medicines) Regulation 2021.
  • Ensure any excess or unused stock is disposed of and destroyed in line with the requirements under the Medicines and Poisons (Medicines) Regulation 2021.
  • Report any adverse events, adverse reactions and unexpected reactions.
  • Retain the dispensed prescription, separately from other prescriptions.

Tip 2: Familiarise yourself with the alternative therapy dispensing process

As most alternative medicine products are not registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), the dispensing process for pharmacists may differ slightly from other prescription medicines in your pharmacy.

Here’s a quick guide to give you a better understanding of the overall process from patient to pharmacy:

  1. Eligibility – If a doctor deems alternative treatment is clinically suitable for their patient, they can write a prescription and submit a TGA approval request through the Special Access Scheme or Authorised Prescriber Scheme

Note: The patient should be advised that it can take up to 10 days to receive TGA approval and hear from their dispensing pharmacy when their medication is ready.

  1. Approval – Once approved, the pharmacist will receive the script and TGA approval from the prescribing doctor or occasionally from the patient
  2. Order – The pharmacist can then place a wholesale order for the prescribed product on the Canview platform.
  3. Delivery – Within 48 hours, the goods will be delivered to the pharmacy for dispensing to the patient (patients will either nominate to pick up their goods or have them delivered)

Note: Most patients will choose at-home delivery. When delivering S8 medicines, you must use an Express Courier postage service.


Tip 3: Open an alternative medicine wholesale account

Pharmacist processing medical marijuana at a pharmacy

Before you begin dispensing alternative medication, the first step is to open a wholesale account with Canview. By registering a free pharmacy account on Canview, you will get the tools and resources to learn about plant-based therapy and confidently dispense products from your pharmacy.

Here’s the general process you can follow to order products on Canview and fill your patient’s plant-based medicine scripts::

  1. Register your pharmacy account on Canview.
  2. Educate yourself on plant-based therapy using Canview’s clinical resources or enrol in our FREE Confident Prescriber Course.
  3. When you receive a plant-based medicine script, login to your Canview account to order products.

    Note: you can add your patient’s TGA approval number to easily find the prescribed product

Once checked out, the products will be posted to your pharmacy for you to dispense to the patient.

Please note, ordering products on the Canview platform is restricted to health professionals only – patients are not able to order products on this platform. Patients looking for plant-based treatment can see their options at CDA Clinics.

Register as a Pharmacist

Tip 4: Learn the packing, storing and recording requirements for plant-based medicine

Just like any prescription medication dispensed from your pharmacy, there are certain requirements you must follow when packing, storing and recording prescriptions for alternative medicines.

We’ve put together a few tips on the requirements your pharmacy must follow. However, please be aware that legislation can differ slightly depending on the state/territory in which your pharmacy is located.

Packing and space requirements

If your pharmacy is already set up to dispense S8 medicines, you can utilise the same space and dispensing process to fill and pack alternative medication prescriptions. As patient volume increases, some pharmacists prefer to separate their alternative treatment packing area from their standard S8 packing area.

Storing requirements

Schedule 8 (S8) products:

  • Must be stored separately from other drugs
  • Must always be kept in a locked safe, except when in immediate use
  • When requiring refrigeration, must be contained in a lockable refrigerator that is either inside a locked room away from the public or is secured to the premises of a pharmacy
  • Must only be accessible by dispensing pharmacists from the locked S8 room, refrigerator or safe

If your pharmacy doesn’t already have CCTV installed, we recommend doing so to monitor any receiving and packing areas, as well as entries to locked safes or rooms.

For more details on alternative medication storage, including storage requirements for S4 products, read our blog on how to store alternative medicine in your pharmacy.

Reporting requirements

Dispensing pharmacists must record all S8 transactions and retain the dispensed prescription, separately from other prescriptions. The records must always reflect the physical balance in the pharmacy’s S8 room or safe. Regular stocktakes should be performed to ensure records are accurate and up to date.

If a patient notifies the pharmacy of any negative side effects, the pharmacist must report any adverse events, adverse reactions and unexpected reactions.

The pharmacy must comply with all reporting and recording requirements, as set down by the Medicines and Poisons (Medicines) Regulation 2021.

medical cannabis pharmacist processing stock using CanView platform

Tip 5: Understand the requirements to dispense alternative medicines

Most Australian pharmacies can legally dispense alternative medicines.

To dispense unregistered alternative therapy products from your pharmacy, you must meet all legal requirements set by the Australian government and your specific state or territory.

In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) administers the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, which establishes the regulatory framework for all medicines in Australia. This includes alternative medicine.

The TGA provides alternative medicine information and resources for health professionals on their information for health professionals page.

As plant-based treatment is also regulated by state/territory health departments, it’s important for dispensing pharmacists to check their relevant state/territory legislation. Here’s a list of some of each health department’s alternative medicine information page:

medical cannabis pharmacist on the phone processing cbd prescriptions for patients


Start your dispensing journey today

Whether you’re already dispensing alternative medicine or about to start, educating yourself and your pharmacy team on alternative medication and the dispensing requirements is a great step to take.

To start your journey and prepare your pharmacy to fill alternative treatment scripts, open your wholesale account on Canview today. For more information or assistance, contact us by requesting a call back below.

Contact Us



The contents in this article donotconstitutelegal advice, arenotintended to be a substitute forlegal adviceand shouldnotbe relied upon as such. You should seeklegal adviceor other professionaladvicein relation to any matters you or your organisation may have. Information in this article was correct at time of publishing but please check your own state regulations for updates. 

Canview does not endorse the use of plant-based medicine without lawful prescription. Just like any medicine, alternative medicine may have both positive and negative side effects on the user and should only be prescribed to patients by a health professional with the authority and expertise to do so. The information provided by Canview is for informational and educational purposes and is of a general nature. Patients considering alternative medicine are advised to speak to their general practitioner first to see if it’s a suitable therapy.