New rules for easier access to medicines during Coronavirus

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   6th Apr 2020

New regulations will make it easier for patients to access medicines during the Coronavirus pandemic

The Minister for Health has introduced new regulations that will make it easier for patients to access their medicines during the Coronavirus crisis.

These changes mean that you no longer need to get a paper prescription from your doctor, some prescriptions will be valid for nine instead of six months and you may be able to get a repeat prescription without a new script from your doctor.

These changes are temporary and have been put in place to make it easier for people to access their medicines. They will be reviewed once the Coronavirus pandemic is over.

The new prescription changes will allow for the electronic transfer of prescriptions from doctors to the pharmacy via the HSE’s secure Healthmail system, they will also increase the maximum period of validity of a prescription from six to nine months.

They also allow pharmacists to give 10 days’ supply of medicines in an emergency (previously 5 days), extend the range of medicines that can be supplied in an emergency for epilepsy and, for the first time, allow five days’ emergency supply of controlled drugs.

" This will relieve some of the pressures on our GPs, pharmacists, and patients in accessing prescriptions,"

Mr Darragh O’Loughlin, Secretary General, Irish Pharmacy Union

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) , the union that represents pharmacists, has welcomed these new prescription rules, which were signed into law last week.

Describing the regulations as a “sensible and necessary development”, IPU Secretary General Mr Darragh O’Loughlin said pharmacists are, “working unstintingly at the coalface dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and these new regulations will streamline the prescribing process, facilitate continuity of care and allow us to continue supporting patients throughout this situation”.

Mr O’Loughlin said pharmacists have gone above and beyond for their patients since the pandemic outbreak, and these regulations, “are an acknowledgement of the professionalism and dedication of pharmacists. Above all, this development is good for Irish patients.”

He added, “The secure electronic transfer of prescriptions to pharmacies via Healthmail from GPs and hospitals is a very welcome step forward and is something we have been advocating for some time. This will relieve some of the pressures on our GPs, pharmacists and patients in accessing prescriptions, cut down on unnecessary contact and eliminate the need for paper prescriptions. It makes solid practical sense.”

The HSE has also moved to reassure patients that there is no disruption to the supply of medicines.

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Mr O’Loughlin concluded, “We would also like to reiterate the Minister’s reminder to patients and the general public not to seek supplies of medicines over and above their normal requirements, as doing so will hamper the supply of medicines for others. These new regulations will allow your pharmacist to continue supplying your medicines throughout this period.”

The HSE has also moved to reassure patients that there is no disruption to the supply of medicines. Therefore there is no need to order more medicines than you need. If you do, it will affect the supply of medicines to other patients.

If you have coronavirus or respiratory symptoms, please do not go to your pharmacy. Phone your pharmacist to order a prescription and ask a family member or friend to collect your medicines.

The Government has also recently launched the Community Call initiative, which includes the establishment of 31 community call offices around the country where volunteers will help delivering groceries or collecting medicines as needed.

If you need medicines collected while cocooning you can access your local Community Call office for help. For more information or to find your local Community Call office please see here.

We are here for you 

We are living in difficult and uncertain times and here at the Irish Heart Foundation we are very aware of the extra challenges people living with the effects of heart disease and stroke face.

The Irish Heart Foundation has developed a number of services to support you at these difficult times.

Telephone and email support

Our nurses are available on phone and email support Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm. Call 01 6685001 or email support@irishheart.ie

Further useful sources of information:

HSE

World Health Organization

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Health Protection Surveillance Centre

Please note the information on this page is for general guidance and comes from national and international guidance. It is not intended to replace the individual support of a medical professional.

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