Read the latest HealthWatch newsletter:  Newsletter 116, Summer 2021

Should we prescribe longer repeat prescriptions for patients with long-term conditions during a pandemic? – a lay summary

In England, most prescriptions issued are for 1-2 months duration. It has been suggested that during the current pandemic, issuing 3-monthly prescriptions for patients with stable chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or asthma could save time and money for health services, and reduce the need for risky person-to-person contact when people should stay at home. What does the evidence say?

  •  In the UK, NHS England has asked GPs not to issue longer repeat prescriptions  at this time, in order to protect the already fragile medicines supply chain from a surge in demand. Instead, it advises electronic repeat dispensing where a clinician authorises a prescription for up to twelve months, allowing the patient to collect repeat prescriptions directly from a pharmacy without the need for a new prescription.
  • Oxford CEBM reviewed the evidence on the effects of prescribing longer duration repeat prescriptions during a pandemic. The evidence base from which to draw conclusions is very limited; no studies had been carried out during a pandemic, nor assessed the impact of changes in duration of repeat prescriptions on the medicines supply chain. 
  • CEBM concluded there is currently no definitive answer to this question. This report will be updated as new relevant evidence is identified.

Mandy Payne, 26 March 2020

This is a lay summary of a report prepared for the Oxford COVID-19 Evidence Service of the Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine by Kamal R Mahtani, Brian MacKenna and Elizabeth Spencer and posted on 25th March 2020.

Disclaimer: the article has not been peer-reviewed; it should not replace individual clinical judgement and the sources cited in the original report should be checked. The views expressed in this commentary represent an interpretation by HealthWatch and do not necessarily represent those of Oxford CEBM, the NHS, the NIHR, or the Department of Health and Social Care. The views are not a substitute for professional medical advice.


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