Information for Patients and the Public


In July 2023, an Expert Taskforce to support the expansion of the role of pharmacists in Ireland was established by the Minister for Health. The Taskforce has been asked to consider ways that pharmacists could expand the services they provide. This is being done to benefit patients and ease pressure across the health system.

So far, the Expert Taskforce has made one recommendation, and this has been accepted by the Minister for Health. This relates to the period of time that a prescription can be dispensed.

The Expert Taskforce continues to meet to discuss other ways that pharmacists could deliver additional services and expand upon what they can currently offer to patients

How long is your prescription valid for?

Prior to a change in legislation on 1 March 2024, prescriptions were valid for no more than 6 months. Changes introduced on 1 March 2024 mean that prescribers can write certain prescriptions for up to 12 months. It also means that from 1 September 2024, pharmacists can decide to extend certain prescriptions that have been written for six months and continue to dispense them for another six months.

What does this mean for me?

When a doctor or other prescriber is writing a prescription, one of the things that they have to decide is how long they think the medicine should be taken. A standard prescription is valid for a maximum of six months. However, if you are on long-term medication, you may not need to have an appointment with your prescriber to have your prescription renewed. This might be because you have a condition that is stable, you are not experiencing any problems with your medication, and you are taking your medication correctly. For these people, it may be appropriate for their prescription to be extended. There are two ways that this can happen.

  1. From 1 March 2024, the person writing the prescription, such as your GP, can decide if the medicines on your prescription are suitable to be prescribed for up to 12 months and dispensed by your pharmacist.
  2. From 1 September 2024, if your prescription is written for six months, your pharmacist can review your prescription and discuss how you are getting on with your medicines. With your agreement, and if they decide it is safe and appropriate, they can continue to dispense your medication. They can do this for up to six more months, meaning your prescription could be valid for up to 12 months in total. The pharmacist is required to let your doctor know when they make the decision to extend your prescription.

Are there any exceptions?

Sometimes, there can be additional considerations for doctors and pharmacists when reviewing your prescription. This is to protect your safety. For example, you might need additional tests or have a consultation to check your progress on a medicine. There are also legal restrictions associated with certain medicines, which would mean that a 12-month prescription or supply of your medicine would not be suitable.

Your doctor or pharmacist will know if any of the medication you are taking is not allowed to be extended and will explain this to you if you have any questions. Your doctor can also write on your prescription that they do not want it to be extended by the pharmacist.

How can you find out if your prescription can be extended?

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

From 1 September 2024, pharmacists can extend a prescription that has been written for six months. They can then continue to dispense it for a maximum of six more months. For your pharmacist to be able to make a decision about whether it is safe to extend your prescription, they must ask you some questions. They will decide what questions need to be asked to be able to make a safe decision on extending or not extending your prescription. These might include questions about how you are getting on with your medication. They will check that you have been taking them correctly and ask if you are noticing any new side effects. They must record these details on your record in the pharmacy. They must also let your doctor know within seven days that they have decided to extend your prescription.

Why might your pharmacist not extend your prescription?

There are different reasons why a pharmacist might decide not to extend your prescription. Pharmacists are healthcare professionals and experts in medicines, and they must always act in the best interest of their patients. If they decide that it is not safe or appropriate to extend your prescription and that you need to return to your doctor to renew your prescription, they should clearly explain the reasons to you. We have produced a Patient Charter that is available on our website. This includes information for the public about what you can expect from your pharmacist.

Further information

If you would like to find out more information about prescription extensions, including examples that may be useful to see if a 12-month prescription or a prescription extension might be right for you, you can visit this dedicated webpage created by the Department of Health.

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