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Validity of scripts for chronic medicine during COVID-19

According to the Medicines and Related Substances Act (ACT NO. 101 OF 1965) you need a prescription from your doctor every six months to obtain your chronic medication. This is to ensure that your doctor manages your chronic condition, checks on you regularly, and is able to monitor how your condition is managed by the medication.

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister of Health deemed it necessary to extend this period and published a corresponding regulation on 30 April. For the next 18 months, you only need a script every 12 months for Schedule 2, 3 and 4 medicine. Medicines like cold and flu remedies, antihistamines and anti-inflammatories are Schedule 1 and 2 drugs, only available from a pharmacy and a sales record must be kept. Schedule 3 and 4 drugs are managed more strictly due to possible effects on your health if taken incorrectly, such as medicine for hypertension and diabetes, antibiotics, anti-fungals or antivirals.

If your script was issued during the last six months before 30 April 2020, it will be valid for an extended period of another six months. Example: Your script was issued on 1 January 2020. Under normal conditions it would have expired on 1 July 2020. Under new regulations, it will now be valid until 31 December 2020. If your script was issued on or after 30 April 2020 it will be valid until 29 April 2021.

This is not intended to provide you with an advanced supply of chronic medication. You will still only be able to get a 30 days’ supply from your pharmacist. The purpose of this measure is to extend the period between doctor visits for renewal of prescriptions during the 18 months to accommodate social distancing and decrease the risk of infection in healthcare facilities.

Many of our members make use of online delivery from their pharmacies so as to avoid unnecessary exposure to other patients at these pharmacies. However, whilst not all pharmacies offered these services before COVID-19, it may now be worth asking them again whether they can deliver your medication. Many businesses have been forced to adapt to these new circumstances and your pharmacy might have done that too by offering home delivery.

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