Information for the Public on Prescription Extension and the Expert Taskforce

A national Expert Taskforce has been set up by the Minister for Health to look at expanding the role of pharmacists in Ireland for the benefit of patients and to ease pressures in the health system. You will find information below on recommendations from the Expert Taskforce and their implementation.  

Expanded pharmacy services for patients

The Minister for Health has set-up an Expert Taskforce to look at expanding the role of pharmacists in Ireland. The Taskforce will look at more ways that the skills and knowledge of pharmacists can be used to benefit patients and ease pressures in the health system. 

The first recommendation by the taskforce is to allow pharmacists to extend how long a prescription can be dispensed for and also to allow doctors (and other prescribers) to write a prescription for up to 12 months. You can find out more information about how this recommendation works below. 

There are two changes to be aware of: 

  1. Before 1st March 2024, no prescription could be written for longer than 6 months. Since 1 March doctors (and other prescribers) can write a prescription for up to 12 months for some medicines if it is safe and appropriate for the patient. 
  2. The other change is that patients who have a prescription for 6 months can ask their pharmacist to extend the prescription up to 12 months if it is safe and appropriate. This only applies to some medicines and to prescriptions written on or after 1st March 2024.  

Doctors (and other prescribers including dentists and nurse prescribers) have been able to write prescriptions for up to 12 months since March. Pharmacists will be able to extend prescriptions from 1st September this year. This is because it only applies to prescriptions that have been written from March onwards. 

A patient who has a six month prescription for a stable medical condition can ask their pharmacist to extend their prescription for up to another six months. This means that where it is appropriate and safe, patients can get up to 12 months of their medicine from their pharmacist before they need to get a new prescription from their doctor. The pharmacist must check that it is safe to dispense the medicine for longer than the original prescription. Not all medicines can be extended and prescription extension will not be suitable for all patients or all of the regular medicines a patient is taking. 

If you have a six-month prescription for a long-term medicine and your health condition is stable you can ask your pharmacist to extend your prescription for up to 12 months.  

  • Firstly your pharmacist might ask you some questions about your medicine and your health condition. They might ask you how you are getting on with your medicine, if you have any side effects and how you are managing your health condition, such as regular tests or checkups with your doctor. They might also look at records available in the pharmacy such as whether they have dispensed the medicine for you before and if you are a regular patient.  
  • They will discuss the available options with you and your healthcare preferences. 
  • If the pharmacist has enough information and in their professional opinion it is safe and appropriate they will extend your prescription for between one and six more months. 
  • The pharmacist must record information about the conversation on your record in the pharmacy. They must also let your doctor know within seven days that they have decided to extend your prescription. 

No. 12 months is the maximum length any prescription can be in Ireland. Pharmacists cannot extend a prescription that has already been written for 12 months.  

If your doctor has written ‘do not extend’ on the prescription, they are indicating to the pharmacist that they do not think the patient’s medicine is suitable for prescription extension. There may be a number of reasons for this such as the patient is not stable on their medicine or they would like to follow-up with the patient sooner than 12 months. A pharmacist cannot extend a prescription that says ‘do not extend’ on it. 

Regardless of how long your prescription has been written for, or extended for, you should always speak to or visit your pharmacist or doctor if you have questions or concerns about your health condition. Patients who have been stable on a medicine for some time may still experience a change in their health condition. 

No. There will be times when a longer prescription or supply of a medicine would not be suitable.  

Some of the reasons for this could include:

  • The medicine is for a health condition that is not stable or long-term and your doctor or pharmacist would like to see how you are getting on with your medicine before giving you a new prescription or more supplies of a medicine. 
  • You might need additional tests after a period of time to check it is safe to continue the medicine for you, for example a follow-up blood test. 
  • You might be experiencing side-effects with the medicine that your doctor or pharmacist would like to monitor. 
  • Your health condition might be long-term but the medicine is new, or the dose has been recently changed. 
  • You might be a new patient to the pharmacy and the pharmacist does not have records in the pharmacy that show that you are stable on your medicine.  
  • There are legal restrictions for how long some medicines can be prescribed for such as controlled drugs. 
  • Your doctor may have written ‘do not extend’ on the prescription. You can read more about this below. 

If you have any questions about the length of your prescription, you can ask your pharmacist or doctor. It is important to remember that writing a longer prescription, or extending a prescription is not automatic and doctors and pharmacists are required to consider each patient and medicines safety when writing or extending prescriptions. 

Just as a doctor (or other prescriber) can decide that a prescription medicine is not safe or suitable for a patient, pharmacists must also decide if it is safe or suitable for a patient to have further supplies of a medicine once their six month prescription has expired.  

A patient can request a pharmacist to extend their six month prescription, but the pharmacist can decide not to extend a prescription if in their opinion as a healthcare professional they don’t think it is safe or appropriate. Usually they will explain the reason for this, but they don’t have to. Some reasons might be that they don’t have access to enough information to be sure that you are stable on your medicine or they think it is important for you to have a follow-up appointment with your doctor or follow-up tests.  

If you take one or more long-term medicines, you can ask your doctor at your next appointment if they would consider writing your prescription for longer than six months. 

There are useful resources for patients from the Department of Health, including examples of the kind of conditions that might be suitable for a 12 month prescription or an extended prescription. 

You can find out more information about the work of the Expert Taskforce on the Department of Health website