26 March 2020

There have been several key announcements for pharmacy today in relation to the continually evolving COVID-19 response.

Ministry of Health Update - Signature exempt prescriptions for remote prescribing

The Ministry of Health has confirmed that a Director-General of Health waiver to the Medicines Regulations 1984 is in place to allow prescriptions that are not physically signed provided the following conditions are met:

  • The prescription is for non-controlled drugs only; and
  • The prescription is a NZePS barcoded prescription; and
  • The system that generates the prescription has been authorised by the Ministry of Health for signature exempt prescriptions; and
  • The prescription is scanned and downloaded from NZePS at a community pharmacy.

Several primary care prescribing systems now enable prescribers set up for NZePS to generate a PDF version of a prescription and e-mail it directly to a pharmacy of the patient’s choice.

The PDF prescription will not have a physical signature, but it will have an NZePS bar code.

The PDF prescription is to be printed by the pharmacy, scanned and downloaded from the NZePS. There is no need for an original to be provided.

There have been no changes to enable this for controlled drug prescriptions.

The prescribing systems currently authorised by the Ministry of Health to pilot this are MedTech32, MedTech Evolution, MyPractice, Indici and Medimap.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about remote prescribing were today published on the MoH website. If you have any questions please email

Ministry of Health Update - Personal Protective Equipment

Current demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) is unprecedented and the Ministry of Health recognises this is causing concern among clinical staff involved in managing the COVID-19 outbreak. Measures to address immediate needs, which include a limited urgent release of equipment and accompanying guidance, will be announced within 24 hours.

PHARMAC Update - Announcement on STAT dispensing

PHARMAC is placing temporary restrictions on dispensing for all community medicines to just one month’s supply (or three months for oral contraceptives). This change will come into effect at midnight on Thursday 26 March. The Pharmaceutical Schedule will be updated to reflect this at the same time.

To support social distancing, pharmacists are still able to make exceptions to dispense up to three-months supply for certain people, specifically those with mobility issues, who live rurally, those who are immunocompromised and the elderly. People also remain able to have their prescriptions picked up for them by others.

IMAC and Ministry of Health Update – Influenza vaccination remains a priority

IMAC and the Ministry of Health have provided guidance on maintaining immunisation during alert level 4 in the COVID-19 response. Influenza vaccination for high risk groups including those over aged 65 years and frontline workers is still a high priority.

They recognise that some people are concerned about leaving their 'bubble' and interacting closely with health professionals. The guidance titled ‘Keep calm and keep vaccinating’ outlines potential strategies that could be employed by health providers to vaccinate safely. This document also discusses PPE needs when vaccinating.

IMAC Update - Position statement on influenza post-vaccination 20-minute wait

IMAC has recognised that during the 2020 Influenza season, the risk of exposure to infectious disease in waiting areas may be higher than the low risk of anaphylactic events and have released a position statement that specifies certain situations where a 20-minute wait post- influenza vaccination may not be needed. That is, adolescents and adults who meet ALL the following criteria may not need to wait for 20 minutes post-vaccination:

  1. do not have a history of severe allergic reactions
  2. have been assessed for any immediate post vaccination adverse reactions (5 minutes)
  3. are aware of when they need to and how to seek post-vaccination advice
  4. will have another adolescent or adult with them for the first 20 minutes post vaccination
  5. have the ability to contact emergency services if required.

Security in pharmacies

The security concerns of the community pharmacy sector have been raised with the Police Major Operations Centre and the Police Intelligence Section. Messaging has been disseminated out to police services nationally reminding that pharmacy is an essential service and has particular security considerations that are to be factored into police activities in support of the Covid-19 and national emergency response.

Pharmacy is advised to call 111 not 105 if they require police assistance.

Pharmacy is also advised that if they observe suspicious behaviour such as people loitering around their premises then they should contact the police immediately as this in of itself a breach of the national emergency criteria.


Manager Practice and Policy: Chris Jay
Professional Practice Pharmacist: Chloë Campbell