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How long are medicine prescriptions valid in France?

We also look at how repeat prescriptions work and terms you may across in relation to prescriptions given by French doctors

Length of validity of prescriptions depends on various factors Pic: PH888 / Shutterstock

Reader question: After receiving a medical prescription from a French doctor is there a limited validity period in which I can use it or is it open-ended?

When obtaining a prescription for medication in France numerous factors can affect the duration of the prescription’s validity.

These include the type of medication and the illness that a patient is being treated for.

Generally, a medical prescription in France is valid to be presented to a pharmacist for only three months after it is delivered but this is not always true, for example in the case of repeat prescriptions and long-term, chronic illnesses.

Some prescriptions can also be for a shorter duration, for example prescriptions for morphine-based medicines may be valid for as little as three days, and certain non-medicinal prescriptions such as glasses or blood tests can be valid for years or even in some cases have no expiry date.

Certain designated affections longue durée (‘long-term conditions’) may have long prescriptions for medications, lasting for up to one year.

This is also the case for certain repeat prescriptions.

Prescriptions, though, cannot last longer than one year and must be renewed after 12 months maximum.

To renew a prescription, whether from your GP or a specialist, it is necessary to have another appointment with a doctor. 

It may be possible to also book an online appointment, in which case the prescription may be provided in an email or in a downloadable format.

How repeat prescriptions work in France

If you have a repeat prescription, it will be marked ‘AR’ (this stands for à renouveler, or to renew) to indicate that the medicine can be refilled or reissued by your pharmacy once the original batch has been used.

When a doctor adds this to your prescription, they will include the number of times the prescription can be renewed.

Prescriptions can also include other labels such as ‘QSP’ (Quantité Suffisante Pour, or quantity sufficient for), meaning that the pharmacist should give enough medication to cover the entirety of the assigned treatment period in one go.

You may also see Non-substitutable which means the pharmacist cannot give you a generic in place of the named branded medicine.

Read more: Pharmacists in France allowed to renew and adjust repeat prescriptions

Normally, if you need a new dose of medicine, and do not have a valid repeat prescription, you will have to see your doctor again for a new prescription.

In exceptional cases, the pharmacist can give you a minimal quantity of a medicine without a prescription. An example of such a situation could be where you have run out of a medicine that you have been taking on a regular basis and you cannot get to see your doctor immediately and disruption of the medication may cause damage to your health.

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