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HomeMiddle East‘Refill policy’: doctors in Abu Dhabi to get power to issue long-term prescriptions

‘Refill policy’: doctors in Abu Dhabi to get power to issue long-term prescriptions

ABU DHABI // Doctors will soon be able to issue repeat prescriptions for up to a year to save thousands of patients costly and time-consuming hospital visits.

Patients with a long-term reliance on medication for conditions such as diabetes and hypertension have to visit a doctor every time they need a prescription.

But health chiefs are now in the final stages of implementing a refill policy, so that chronic patients whose condition is stable will have to visit a doctor only once a year to renew their prescription.

Then they can go straight to pharmacists to get repeat medication for the next 12 months.

The measure, expected to be in force within months, will also reduce patient waiting times and cut the unnecessary costs to health insurers of laboratory tests and hospital visits, said Sahar Fahmy, the section head of drugs and medical products regulation at the Health Authority Abu Dhabi.

“If a physician wants to write a prescription for medicine, it will be in one visit. At the moment, chronic patients have to go back again and again to see a physician.

“This refill policy will allow the physician to write a prescription for a duration of up to one year.”

Thousands of patients with long-term but manageable conditions are forced to make unnecessary hospital visits, she said.

Diabetes and hypertension, or elevated blood pressure, are two of the most common chronic conditions in the UAE.

According to figures released by the International Diabetes Federation last November, there are 745,940 diabetics in the UAE.

While not all of these live in Abu Dhabi or are categorised as in a stable condition, a significant proportion will benefit from the new rules.

A Sudanese expatriate, Alaa Elhag, is one of those patients who needs constant trips to a doctor to obtain medication to treat her type one diabetes.

“I basically visit the doctor every three months for blood tests and check ups and for the prescription. However, sometimes I need the prescription before the blood tests are due, so I have to go to the doctor in between the blood tests,” said Ms Elhag, 30, an executive secretary at a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi.

She welcomed the new policy, which has taken more than a year to shape but is now in its final stages.

Often a patient is in a stable condition and the trip to the doctor is purely for a repeat prescription, said Ms Fahmy.

This is not only time-wasting for the patient and the doctor but has a knock-on effect for other patients with a genuine health concern waiting to see a doctor.

“It is a multiple benefit – for insurance, for patients, for pharmacists, doctors, for businesses.”

“It is in the last stage of consultation,” said Ms Fahmy.

“This will be a huge benefit to patients with chronic long-standing conditions, stable ones,” she said.

The health authority first announced a repeat-prescription system in October 2012. At the time, they said they expected it to be in operation by the end of that year.

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(via The National)