Renewing a prescription for a chronic condition and buying certain medications over the counter will become easier soon if the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee approves regulations that would allow pharmacists to take over some prescription-writing tasks from doctors.
The regulations, a draft of which was recently distributed to pharmacists for their feedback, call for experienced pharmacists to be authorized to extend prescriptions for chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and depression by six months from the date of the final prescription given by a doctor.
Pharmacists would also be allowed to write out initial prescriptions for medications that include 14 common active ingredients, including those meant to treat skin diseases like acne and relatively minor problems like heartburn and hemorrhoids. Filling these prescriptions would cost more than buying medication prescribed by a doctor.
If the Knesset's health committee approves the regulations, as expected, they will go into effect in January.
The Health Ministry and the health maintenance organizations will work together to oversee the pharmacist prescriptions, which are geared toward helping patients and overloaded doctors, the ministry said in a statement.
"This move is aimed primarily at improving the service for the good of the patients, and in an indirect way will also help ease doctors' caseloads," the ministry said.
For pharmacists to be granted the additional authority, they need to practice for five years, attend a 60-hour training program and pass a test at the end of the program. The Health Ministry is waiting for the regulations to be passed before it begins approving training programs.
As part of the regulations, some patient information will be made available to pharmacists through the pharmacy computers, particularly in pharmacies operated by health clinics. The information will include the patients' recent visits to the doctor and their test results over the previous six months. The pharmacists are obligated to keep the information confidential, and must update the patients' doctors about any prescriptions they issue.
Before extending a prescription, pharmacists will be required to ask the patients if they have had the condition for at least six months and if they have recently seen a doctor. Pharmacists will also have to report the higher cost of an initial prescription before charging patients for the medication.
Some of the chronic conditions that will be covered by the new regulations include high blood pressure, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, allergies, osteoperosis and other bone diseases, thyroid and pancreas problems, digestive problems and hormonal imbalance.
Pharmacists will be allowed to write initial prescriptions for medicines that treat skin infections and fungal infections.
Pharmacist prescriptions will include usage and dosage instructions and will bear the pharmacist's signature. A note of explanation in one of five languages - Hebrew, Arabic, English, Russian or Amharic - will state that patients have the right to consult with a physician at any time.
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