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How long does prescription last?
Pharmacy insights

How long does prescription last?

Prescriptions (NHS, private & vet) need to be dispensed within an appropriate time frame. All prescriptions: NHS, computer-generated, electronic (EPS), or handwritten must be dated. Prescriptions without a date are not legally valid and most likely will not be dispensed. Generally, the most important factor which affects prescription expiry date is the presence of a controlled drug. So, how long does prescription last? Read on. 

How long does prescription last?

Prescription expires 6 months from the date it is written unless a controlled drug Schedule 2, 3 or 4 is prescribed.

How long does a controlled drug prescription last?

  • The expiry time for a controlled drug script Schedules 2, 3 or 4 is 28 days from the issue date.
  • The expiry time for a controlled drug script Schedule 5 is 6 months from the issue date.

There are five Schedules of Controlled Drugs in the UK:

  • Schedule 1 controlled drugs are generally not seen in a community pharmacy as they are not used for medical purposes but research, for example, LSD.
  • Most common Schedule 5 is codeine preparations or low strength of morphine (e.g., Morphine sulfate oral solution 10mg/5ml) 
  • Common Schedule 2 controlled drug include: Morphine, Oxycodone, Fentanyl 
  • Common Schedule 3 controlled drugs include: Gabapentin and Pregabalin, Temazepan, Tramadol, Buprenorphine

I have an ‘owing’ for a controlled drug script? How much time do I have to collect it?

Occasionally in practice, you see party dispensed controlled drugs. For example, a part supply was made as the pharmacy did not have a full quantity of a drug in stock. In this case, an ‘owing ticket’ is typically produced to allow the patient to collect the remaining balance at different time. The remaining balance must be collected within 28 days of the script’s issue date.

How long a repeatable NHS prescription last?

In some circumstances, prescribed can choose to issue a 6-month or a 12-month repeatable prescription (paper or electronic). This concept is known as ‘repeat dispensing’ in the pharmacy. Patients who are issued a repeatable script do not need to see his/her GP to get another issue of the script. A 12-month repeatable prescription expires 12 months from the issue date. The first supply of a repeatable prescription needs to be done within 6 months of the issue date. Controlled drugs Schedule 2 and 3 cannot be prescribed as a repeatable prescription. As confusing as it may be, a list of drugs at the back of prescription is commonly known as ‘repeats’, however, this has nothing to do with ‘repeat dispensing’ which I talked about.  

How long does a private prescription last?

Private prescription expires 6 months from the issue date with the exemption of controlled drugs private (or vet) scripts and private scripts for which the prescriber allowed repeated dispensing (see below). To learn more about private prescriptions, read a separate post, Private prescriptions Q&A.  

How long is repeatable private prescription last?

For repeatable private prescription, first dispensing needs to be done within 6 months of the issue date, following which there is no legal time limit for dispensing. Prescriber states typically how many times prescription can be repeated. The prescriber can also limit the time for all repeats, or define frequency/intervals for dispensing. In this case, the pharmacy team will follow prescriber instructions.

How long does a vet script last?

Vet prescriptions are treated as private prescriptions; therefore, the same expiry rules apply to vet prescriptions.

Prescription expiry times: FAQ

How long is a prescription valid after it is written?

Prescription expires 6 months from the date it was written, unless a controlled drug (CD) is prescribed. CD prescriptions (Schedules 2-4) expire 28 days from the date prescription is written.

How long is a prescription for antibiotics valid?

Prescription for antibiotics is valid for 6 months from the date it was written.

How long is a Schedule 5 prescription valid?

Prescription for Controlled Drugs Schedule 5 is valid for 6 months from the date it was written.


1. Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) accessed on 7 April 2019.

2. How long is a prescription valid for? – NHS ( accessed on 8 April 2019.

I am a community pharmacist working in UK. I blog about drugs, health and pharmacy.

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