Health Question

How long is a prescription valid for?

A standard prescription is valid for 6 months from the date on the prescription, unless the medicine prescribed contains a controlled medicine.

The date on the prescription can be:

  • the date it was signed by the health professional who issued it, or
  • a date that the health professional has indicated the prescription should not be dispensed before

If a prescription shows both of these dates, the 6 months starts from the later date.

This applies to medicines prescribed both on the NHS and privately.

Always follow the instructions of the GP, or the person who issued the prescription, about when to take your medicine.

Repeat prescriptions

Repeat prescriptions allow the same prescription to be dispensed more than once. A repeat prescription must be dispensed for the first time within 6 months of the date on the prescription.

After this, the repeat prescription can continue to be valid beyond 6 months, according to the directions on the prescription.

Controlled medicines

Some prescription medicines are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation. These include morphine, pethidine and methadone.

These medicines are sometimes misused, so strict legal controls apply to their supply.

A prescription for a controlled medicine is valid for 28 days from the date on the prescription.

If you have a prescription for a controlled medicine that states it should be dispensed in several instalments, the first instalment must usually be dispensed on the date specified or within 28 days of the date on the prescription.

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