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Metric measuring of medicines

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(Net to be released before 7 p.m. Sunday, 1st November, 1964)


. Metric measuring for medicines prescribed' under the.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will replace the Imperial system

on May 1 next year. '

The Acting Commonwealth Minister for Health, Mr. R.W,

Swartz, announced this to-day. Mr. Swartz said the change to the '

metric system in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme would be ' ' · · .

an important step towards standardising all medical measuring

in Australia·

For the public the change will mean the end of the

"teaspoon-tablespoon" era of medicine measuring and a switch ·

to the use of more exact measures. The basic measures will be

millilitres for liquids and milligrams for solids.

For doctors the change will mean that most prescriptions

for Pharmaceutical Benefits will have to be expressed in metric

terms. .

For chemists it will.means that almost all dispensing

of Pharmaceutical Benefits will be done under the metric system.

For pharmaceutical manufacturers the change will mean

that container sizes will have to be changed to suit metric

measures and that items listed as Pharmaceutical Benefits must be

made in forms and sizes suitable for metric^ dose-s.—

Mr. Swartz said that ultimately the change would result

in greater safety, convenience and efficiency for the whole

population. .

. The Australian Medical Association, the Pharmaceutical

Association of Australia, the Federated Pharmaceutical Service

■fcuild of Australia and the manufacturers all agreed in principle


/ /

with the change, Mr. .Swartz said. The Commonwealth Department

of Health was acting as co-ordinating authority and details

of the change-over "being finalised. The State Governments

had also been informed of the plans for the change-over.

Mr. Swartz said the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory

Committee, which advises the Commonwealth Government, had already

fixed maximum quantities and unit dosages for the Pharmaceutical

Benefits Prescriber's list. These had been approved and would

become the basis of prescribing after May 1.

Manufacturers of ready-prepared Pharmaceutical Benefits

had also begun the change-over to metric measure under the

guidance of the Department. In general manufacturers’ packs of

medical preparations would be converted to metric quantities as

near as possible to the present volumes allowed under the Imperia"1


Mr. Swartz said the change to metric prescribing was

being made to bring Australian medical and pharmaceutical practice

into line with that in other advanced countries. The British

Pharmacopoeia and the Australian Pharmaceutical Formulary both

now expressed quantities in metric terms and New Zealand had

already the change to prescribing in the metric system.

Mr. Swartz said that the metric system was already

being used exclusively in some Australian hospitals and for the

training of most medical graduates.

. Mr. Swartz said that from May 1 of next year all items

in the Prescriber's list would have to be expressed in

prescriptions in metric terms to be valid as Pharmaceutical ~

Benefits. Ready-prepared and Prescriber's List items made up

about 90 per cent of all Pharmaceutical Benefit prescriptions.

. In the case of doctors' "favourite mixtures" and

extemporaneous preparations other than Prescriber's list items

which were eligible as Pharmaceutical Benefits,· some latitude

in prescribing would be allowed. Such preparations could be


prescribed and dispensed in either the metric or Imperial system

hut it was expected that doctors would ultimately change these to

metric terms.

Mr. Swartz said that as the date of the change-over to

metric prescribing approached it would be important to educate

the public to the new system. The Department of Health, the

Australian Medical Association, the Pharmaceutical Association

and the Pharmaceutical EFuild would therefore co-operate in an

educational programme.

The basic aims of this programme would be to make

people aware of the change-over and to see that all households

had available a metric medicine measure. Tablets and capsules

dispensed as Pharmaceutical Benefits after May 1 would all be in

metric quantities and patients would simply follow the dosage

instructions. In the case of many liquid preparations, which

needed to be measured for doses by patients themselves, however,

metric medicine glasses would be necessary.

Mr, Swartz said' the household "teaspoon-tablespoon"

system of taking liquid medicines had always been unsatisfactory

because of significant variations in the sizes of domestic spoons.

The metric measuring devices which would be available would be

much more exact and therefore safer. '