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Pharmacists can extend some prescriptions from today

A pharmacist can, from today, extend a six-month prescription for up to 12 months if they believe this is suitable for the person’s medical condition.

The Department of Health said this means that some patients may be able to continue on their medication without having to visit a GP for a repeat prescription.

However, the original prescription must be written on or after 1 March 2024 and certain medications will not be eligible for prescription extension.

Another change being introduced today allows prescribers, including GPs, to write prescriptions for patients for up to 12 months.

The Department of Health said the moves are being made in response to a recommendation from an expert group to support the expansion of the role of pharmacists.

The changes, it said, would help to reduce the number of GP visits for prescriptions and decrease demand on busy GP clinics as well as providing cost savings and increased flexibility for some patients.

The department added that expanding the role of pharmacists would enable them to use their expertise for the benefit of people’s health.

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) said it welcomed the changes, describing the use of prescription extention during the Covid-19 pandemic as “highly successful”.

However, the IPU said that a scheme to allow pharmacists to extend prescriptions under defined clinical criteria would not be implemented until September.

The union’s acting Secretary General Derek Reilly said: “The true value of prescription extension to patients will only be seen when pharmacists are given similar clinical discretion.

“This will facilitate patients to seek an extension of a prescription directly from their pharmacist.”

“Pharmacists are eagerly awaiting the introduction of this element of prescription extension and future recommendations” of the taskforce, he added.

However, Mr Reilly said: “The act of reviewing a medication and determining if it is clinically appropriate to extend must be funded appropriately.”

Mr Reilly said the “implementation of any new schemes and the funding for these services” would have to be agreed as part of ongoing discussions with the Department of Health.

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