How long is a prescription valid for?

A prescription is valid for six months from the date on the prescription, unless the medicine prescribed contains a controlled drug (see below).

The date on the prescription can be:

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

If a prescription contains both these dates, the six months starts from the later of the two dates.

This applies to medicines prescribed on the NHS and privately.

Always follow the instructions of your GP, or the person who issued the prescription, about when to take your medication. Read more about discussing your medication with your GP

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 six months of the date on the prescription.

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

Controlled drugs

Some prescription medicines are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation. These include drugs such as morphine, pethidine and methadone. These medicines are sometimes misused so stricter legal controls apply to their supply, to prevent them being obtained inappropriately.

A prescription for a controlled drug is valid for 28 days from the date on the prescription. If you have a prescription for a controlled drug that states the drug should be dispensed in several instalments, the first instalment must be dispensed within 28 days of the date on the prescription.

Read the answers to more questions about NHS services and treatments.

Further information:


Your local pharmacy

Pharmacies offer a lot more services today than in the past. Watch a video about what your pharmacist can do for you.

Media last reviewed: 29/04/2013

Next review due: 29/04/2015

Page last reviewed: 04/06/2013

Next review due: 03/06/2015