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Infectious Diseases

Updated 04 May 2020

Your 6-month prescription expiring? Your pharmacist may extend it, new regulations state

In what appears to be a bid to further restrict movement and lessen the burden on the healthcare system, if you have an expiring six-month prescription, under certain circumstances, you will not have to visit the doctor for a while longer, according to new regulations.

People with expiring prescriptions, in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, are set for some relief.

In what appears to be a bid to further restrict movement and lessen the burden on the healthcare system, if you have an expiring six-month prescription, under certain circumstances, you will not have to visit the doctor for a while longer.

In an amendment to the Medicines and Related Substances Act, schedule 2, 3 and 4 drugs will be subject to extensions by dispensing pharmacists for a further six months.

The act previously limited the dispensing of the scheduled, prescribed drugs to six months whereafter a new prescription from the prescribing doctor would be required.

But the amendment to the act, section 22A(6)(f), allows for schedule 2, 3 and 4 drugs to be excluded from that requirement.

According to the Government Gazette, this amendment was subject to schedule 2, 3, and 4 drugs not being dispensed "for a period longer than 12 months from the date of issue of a prescription issued by an authorised prescriber". 

The prescription will be extended "in accordance with the original prescription in order to ensure that therapy is not disrupted, if the person dispensing the prescription is satisfied that an authorised prescriber initiated the therapy with the intention that the therapy be continued".

According to two pharmacists Health24 spoke to, a phone call can be made at the dispensing pharmacist's discretion - where a patient has a history of being on medication it would not be deemed necessary to call the doctor.

If a patient's chronic condition is perhaps not stable the pharmacist might want to call the doctor to determine if the patient must remain on the medication, they said.

In the event that the dispensing pharmacist is then comfortable with the extension, the particulars of the sale must be recorded in a prescription book, or permanent record.

What this means, for example, is that if you were issued a prescription in January, expiring in June, as long as the requirements above are met, the pharmacist could extend it for a further six months. 

This would then meet the 12-month dispensing criteria of the new regulation.

The government document said the new regulation was effective immediately, and would apply to anybody who was given a six-month prescription in the next 18 months - again, subject to a 12-month limit on being dispensed the medication.

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