28-day prescription limit 'costly and inconvenient'

Prescribing Study finds limits were unpopular with patients.

Policies limiting prescriptions to 28 days' treatment are unpopular with patients and more expensive for the NHS, a study has shown.

Researchers from the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle examined attitudes to restricted prescription lengths by surveying 2,551 members of the British Thyroid Foundation.

Only 13 per cent of respondents were 'satisfied' with the 28-day arrangement and 59 per cent were 'dissatisfied'.

Patients have warned that the policies, designed to cut medicines wastage, undermine access to treatment and increase costs and inconvenience for patients.

Last year, GP newspaper revealed that more than 40 per cent of PCTs had introduced 28-day prescribing limits without assessing the impact on patient care (GP, 27 November 2008).

The researchers also compared the costs of three-month and 28-day levothyroxine scrips. Accounting for drug costs and the pharmacist's professional fee, 28-day prescribing cost £7.90 more a year per patient.

Additional costs would also be incurred for 28-day prescribing, the researchers pointed out, including GP and staff time.

'Levothyroxine 28-day prescribing is substantially more expensive than giving longer supplies,' the researchers said.

'Although the 28-day prescribing policy has some benefits in principle, in practice the policy has some clear disadvantages,' they added.

'An indiscriminately applied 28-day prescribing policy is inappropriate for cheap medications and for those that have to be taken lifelong,' they said.

'Our analysis may be equally applicable for other endocrine conditions and for other chronic conditions.'

tom.moberly@haymarket.com

  • BMC Public Health Online 2009

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