GPs should write longer duration prescriptions for long-term conditions

Published: 14 Mar 2018 By Elisabeth Mahase

Prescription pic

Prescriptions covering just 28 days are not based on 'sound' evidence and could be increased for stable conditions, a new study has suggested.

The paper, published in the BJGP, said that medication adherence could improve if longer prescriptions were given.

Lead author on the study, Dr Sarah King, has said that CCGs might wish to reconsider current recommendations for patients with stable chronic conditions.

The research team carried out a literature search across major scientific and literature databases and found 13 studies that met the inclusion criteria, between 1993 and 2015.

All papers looked at primary care in middle and high-income countries, with randomised controlled or observational studies which compared longer-duration and 28-day prescriptions included.

Comparisons were then made between prescription lengths, with various groups including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and depression.

Nine of the studies suggested that longer duration prescriptions were associated with patients being more likely to take their medications.

The paper said ‘studies do suggest medication adherence may improve with longer prescriptions'.

'UK recommendations to provide shorter prescriptions are not substantiated by the current evidence base,' it added.

Dr King said: ‘Currently, the UK Department of Health and Social Care advises that the frequency of repeat prescriptions should balance patient convenience with clinical appropriateness, cost-effectiveness and patient safety but does not specify a recommended period.

‘Given our study results, CCGs and local NHS may wish to reconsider current recommendations for 28-day prescription lengths for patients with stable chronic conditions.’

Fellow study author Dr Rupert Payne, from the University of Bristol’s centre for academic primary care, said: ‘This has been a contentious issue for many years. Our research shows that the current recommendations to issue shorter prescriptions have been based on a lack of sound scientific evidence.

‘There is the potential for longer prescriptions to lead to important benefits, by improving patients’ adherence and thus the effectiveness of the drugs, lessening workload for health care professionals, and reducing inconvenience and costs to patients.’

Last year it was reported that digitally dispensing repeat prescriptions had saved the NHS more than £212 million since 2011 due to the reduction in administrative time for GPs. 

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