Salbutamol is an important medicine for the relief of respiratory symptoms associated with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory diseases. Salbutamol in the form of metered dose aerosols (puffers) or dry powders for inhalation is available from pharmacies in Australia with or without prescription. However, salbutamol cannot ordinarily be advertised to the public, even the products that can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC) from pharmacies without prescription.
Smoke and increased air pollution from bushfires, which are currently being experienced in many areas of Australia, can trigger respiratory symptoms. However, pharmacies in bushfire affected areas may experience irregular stock deliveries and people evacuated from their houses may have lost their salbutamol medication or prescription for salbutamol. In this difficult time, it is important that people can be alerted to the availability of OTC salbutamol.
Until 30 April 2020, the TGA has granted permission for pharmacies to advertise that:
- people with asthma or COPD can obtain salbutamol puffers or dry powder inhalers from a particular pharmacy; and
- people with asthma or COPD can obtain salbutamol puffers or dry powder inhalers from pharmacies with or without prescription if necessary.
The permission also extends to salbutamol advertising activities conducted or facilitated by evacuation centres and other places dealing with displaced people. It also permits advertising that reminds people with asthma or COPD to, in the event of an evacuation, remember to take the following with them:
- any salbutamol medicines that they have, and
- any scripts they have for salbutamol.
Pharmacies seeking to advertise the availability of OTC salbutamol from their business must ensure that they have adequate stocks before advertising, otherwise the advertising would be considered misleading and in breach of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (Code). There are sanctions and penalties for advertising that does not comply with the Code. Online advertising in particular should be amended or removed quickly should stocks dwindle or become unavailable to avoid the advertising misleading.
Pharmacy staff responding directly to individual queries from patients about the availability of salbutamol or any other medicine is not considered to be advertising.
This permission expires on 30 April 2020, unless otherwise extended. Advertising salbutamol after this date may expose advertisers to sanctions and penalties.
Any queries on this permission can be directed to the TGA’s online advertising inquiry form.
What this means for consumers
During this difficult bushfire situation, it is important that you can be alerted to the availability of OTC salbutamol. Salbutamol is marketed in Australia under the trade names:
- Asmol, and
If you are running short on your salbutamol product, including metered dose aerosols (puffers) or dry powders for inhalation, your pharmacy may be promoting availability of this product so that you can restock as needed. If you usually get your salbutamol puffer or inhaler on prescription, but have lost it, talk to your pharmacist – you may be able to get one without a prescription.
If you have questions or concerns regarding your medicines, you should contact your doctor or a pharmacist in the first instance.