Poisons are controlled under state legislation with reference to national standards.
In WA the Poisons Regulations and associated licensing and permit systems are administered by the Pharmaceutical Services section of the Health Department of WA. The Poisons Regulations limit the availability of poisons, according to the risks associated with their possession, use and supply.
This legislation also stipulates requirements for packaging, labelling and security of storage. Uniform national standards are now referenced by the WA Poisons Regulations, and are published in the SUSDP.
The main effort of this standard is to allocate poisons to a number of schedules (numbered from 1 to 9) according to the degree of restriction on the availability, labelling and the like that is deemed necessary for the particular poison. A current edition of the SUSDP may be purchased from the National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee of the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
It is noteworthy that the regulations and schedules have been formulated with a strongly therapeutic (medical, dental and veterinary) emphasis, and that substances in the schedules are subject to the same controls whether they are for therapeutic use or otherwise, unless specifically stated to the contrary in the schedules.
The SUSDP places poisons in one of the following schedules:
|SUSDP schedule||Type of substance||Comments (Examples)|
|1||Schedule blank at this stage|
|2||Pharmacy medicine||Substances, the safe use of which may require advice from a pharmacist and which should be available from a pharmacy or, where a pharmacy service is not available, from a licensed person. (Examples: aspirin, methylephedrine).|
|3||Pharmacist only medicine||Substances, the safe use of which may require professional advice but which should be available from a pharmacist without prescription. (Examples: Ventolin, glucagon).|
|4||Prescription only medicine||Substances, the use or supply of which should be by or on order of persons permitted by State or Territory legislation to prescribe and should be available from a pharmacist on prescription. (Examples: iso-amyl nitrite, vancomycin, chloral hydrate).|
|5||Caution||Substances with a low potential for causing harm, the extent of which can be reduced through the use of appropriate packaging with simple warnings and safety directions on the label. (Examples: Styrene, Paradichlorobenzene).|
|6||Poison||Substances with a moderate potential for causing harm, the extent of which can be reduced through the use of distinctive packaging with strong warnings and safety directions on the label. (Examples: ammonia, chloroform, sodium hydroxide).|
|7||Dangerous Poison||Substances with a high potential for causing harm at low exposure and which require special precautions during manufacture, handling or use. These poisons should be available only to specialised or authorised users who have the skills necessary to handle them safely. Special regulations restricting their availability, possession, storage or use may apply. (Examples: cyanides, hydrofluoric acid, nitrites).|
|8||Controlled drug||Substances which should be available for use but require restriction of manufacture, supply, distribution, possession and use to reduce abuse, misuse and physical or psychological dependence. (Examples: Pentobarbitone, Fentanyl).|
|9||Prohibited substance||Substances which may be abused or misused, the manufacture, possession, sale or use of which should be prohibited by law except when required for medical or scientific research, or for analytical, teaching or training purposes with approval of Commonwealth and/or State or Territory authorities. (Examples: 4-hydroxybutanoic acid, heroin).|
To purchase or acquire poisons from schedules 2, 3, 4 or 7, the purchaser requires a permit under the Poisons Act and Regulations. A permit is not required for schedules 2 or 3 providing they are purchased in person from a pharmacy. The supplier of these poisons is required to sight evidence of the purchaser’s authorisation to purchase or possess the poisons in question (usually in the form of a poisons permit for laboratory or workshop use).
A permit is not required to purchase these substances, and a number of them, such as sodium hydroxide and acetone are readily available in supermarkets and hardware shops. These substances may be ordered/purchased without any poisons permit.
Schedule 8 drugs (when used in laboratories) are usually purchased on one-off authorities for a specific project, and use of these substances is subject to strict storage and accounting procedures. On occasion an ongoing permit may be issued for the purchase of schedule 8 substances, but this is the exception rather than the rule, other than in clinical areas.
To purchase scheduled poisons in schedules 2, 3, 4, 7 or 8, a poisons permit or other authority to purchase must be obtained from the Pharmaceutical Services section of the Health Department of WA. It is an offence to purchase substances from these schedules without a permit, and it is also an offence for anyone to supply them to a person without an appropriate permit or authority.
Applications for such a permit are to be made on a specific form available from the Health Department, and will generally require the following information:
Possession of these substances in WA is prohibited unless gazetted by Vice-Regal decree for a specific person, location and purpose. Queries in this regard should be directed to the Pharmaceutical Services section of the Health Department of WA on (+61 8) 9222 4222.
For further advice or assistance with poisons and permits for their purchase, contact the Chemical and Safety Adviser.