Safety and first aid

Stimulant medicines

What are stimulant medicines?

Stimulant medicines stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) by increasing the activity of certain chemicals in the brain. Dexamphetamine, lisdexamphetamine and methylphenidate are all stimulant medicines.

Lisdexamphetamine may be sold under the brand name of Vyvanse ®.

Methylphenidate may be sold under the brand names of:

  • Ritalin®
  • Concerta®
  • Ritalin LA®

These medicines (methylphenidate) are available in immediate release and sustained release formulations.

Stimulant medicines are used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (a sleep disorder). They may also be used in the treatment of depression or brain damage.

Who can prescribe stimulant medicines?

In WA, stimulant medicines may only be prescribed by specialists who are authorised by the Department of Health, such as:

  • psychiatrists
  • paediatricians
  • neurologists
  • thoracic medicine doctors
  • rehabilitation doctors
  • respiratory doctors
  • sleep doctors.

A GP may also be involved in the care of patients being treated with stimulant medicines, under the direction of the authorised specialist. GPs cannot initiate treatment with stimulant medicines.

What is the specialist’s role in prescribing stimulant medicines?

When an authorised specialist initiates treatment with stimulant medicines they are required to complete a Notification of Treatment Using Stimulant Medication form.

This form is submitted to the Department of Health. It contains information on:

  • patient details
  • the condition being treated
  • medicine/s to be prescribed.

Your treating specialist will inform you that the information in the notification form will be forwarded to the Department of Health.

What restrictions are there on the prescribing and dispensing of stimulant medicines?

In WA, the Stimulant Prescribing Code sets the criteria for the prescribing of stimulant medicines. To prevent the routine prescribing of these medicines, the code outlines:

  • who can prescribe stimulant medicines
  • maximum doses that may be prescribed
  • patient age limits and co-morbidities.

Stimulant medicines have legitimate therapeutic uses, but also the potential for addiction or abuse. They are included in Schedule 8 of the Poisons Act 1964 (external site). There are additional restrictions on the prescription and dispensing which apply to Schedule 8 medicines.

Who can discuss my medical history and medication?

Your doctor or specialist is the best person to discuss your medical treatment/medication. They are familiar with your medical condition and have all of your information. They are also the only ones authorised to write prescriptions for dexamphetamine/methylphenidate.

Why is my doctor no longer able to prescribe my dexamphetamine?

There are restrictions on the supply of stimulant medication. These restrictions apply if you:

  • have a specified medical condition such as psychosis or bipolar disorder
  • are receiving medication to treat your substance abuse.

Your specialist needs to apply to the Department of Health for permission before prescribing the medication. Additionally you may be required to perform urine drug screens. Your consent is required for the specialist to send the information to the Department of Health.

This does not preclude you from accessing the most appropriate stimulant medication.

It is best to discuss the matter with your specialist. They can get in touch with the Department who will assist them to get the best possible outcome.

What is the role of the pharmacy in dispensing stimulant medicines?

All repeat prescriptions for stimulant medicines must be dispensed from the same pharmacy where the original prescription was dispensed. The repeat prescription must be kept in the pharmacy.

If a transfer of your prescription is required, please advise the pharmacist who will be able to get in contact with the Department of Health to arrange the transfer process.

Before a transfer of prescription is authorised by the Department, certain conditions need to be met.

The Department will authorise the transfer of prescriptions to reduce barriers for patients accessing long-term treatment. The transfer applications are assessed on the distance the patient would have to travel between a metropolitan area to a rural/regional area (or vice versa) and whether the move is permanent or temporary.

Transfers within the metropolitan area require extenuating circumstances.

The pharmacist will determine when repeat supplies of stimulant medicines are able to be dispensed.

The pharmacy is also required to send information to the Department of Health including:

  • patient name
  • details of the medicines dispensed
  • prescribing doctor.

What if a repeat supply of stimulant medicine is required before the due date?

If you require a prescription to be filled before the due date, the pharmacist must contact the prescriber before dispensing.

The pharmacist must ensure that the supply of stimulant medicines is appropriate for a patient and is in accordance with the prescriber’s recommendations.

Can I get my interstate prescription for stimulants dispensed in WA?

Prescriptions supplied in other states or territories do not comply with WA legislation.

You will need to visit a doctor in Western Australia who will contact the Department of Health. Documentation from your previous doctor regarding your medical condition will need to be supplied.


Acknowledgements

Medicines and Poisons Regulation Branch


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Link to HealthyWA Facebook page