The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data collection contains data for prescriptions dispensed under the PBS and Repatriation PBS (RPBS).

Variation in the dispensing of medication can suggest that some people may be missing out on an effective treatment, while others are being exposed to avoidable harms and unnecessary costs (ACSQHC 2023). This report examined the dispensing patterns of medications that are particularly relevant to people living with dementia, including:

  • rates of polypharmacy (when people are using 5 or more distinct medications at the same time)
  • rates of hyper-polypharmacy (when people are using 10 or more distinct medications at the same time)

and dispensing of:

  • dementia-specific medications (see Dementia-specific medications)
  • other psychotropic medications
  • medications for common comorbidities such as heart disease and diabetes
    • cardiovascular disease medication: includes medications that are used to manage coronary heart disease, stroke and chronic heart failure, as well as medications used to manage risk factors like high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol
    • Glucose regulating medication: includes insulins and oral medications.

Information is presented on:

  • people dispensed one or more prescriptions, as an indicator of prescribing behaviour 
  • people dispensed 4 or more prescriptions, as an indicator of regular medication use. 

For example, in order to continue receiving dementia-specific medication, patients must be able to tolerate the treatment and demonstrate a clinically meaningful response. It is therefore not surprising that a lower percentage of people were dispensed the medications 4 or more times (see figures 2.2, 3.2, 4.3, 5.2). 

It is important to note that information on medication intake and adherence to medication plans is not available. The data presented here relate only to prescriptions dispensed. In addition, the PBS and RPBS do not contain data on dispensing of privately prescribed medications (prescriptions that are not eligible for subsidy under the PBS or RPBS), dispensing to public hospital in-patients and over-the-counter medications.

More information on the analysis of medication dispensing patterns can be found in the Technical guide.


ACSQHC (Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care) (2023) Medicines dispensing, ACSQHC, Australian Government, accessed 22 August 2023.