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New bill would allow Georgians to get prescriptions filled in advance during emergencies

The Georgia Senate passed legislation Monday that would allow pharmacists to fill certain prescriptions for up to 90 days in the event of a state of emergency or a hurricane warning in Georgia.

House Bill 791, sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, would allow health-care insurers to waive the “refill too soon” rules if the governor has issued an emergency declaration or the National Weather Service has sent out a hurricane warning.

Waiving those rules would allow pharmacists to dispense up to 90 days-worth of maintenance medications for patients with chronic illnesses who reside in areas where an emergency has been declared or a hurricane warning issued.

Pharmacists would still be allowed to withhold refilling a prescription if it involves a controlled substance, is an initial refill or if a doctor has specified that the medication should not be refilled.

The measure passed unanimously out of the Senate on Monday. It heads back to the House for final passage.

Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, who pushed for the bill in the Senate, said it would help cut through red tape in times of emergency.

“This legislation is to ensure that patients continue to receive essential medications,” said Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta.

Rules on prescription refills were recently loosened by Gov. Brian Kemp in response to the coronavirus pandemic. As social distancing rules kicked in earlier this year, many elderly persons and those with chronic illnesses worried about how to keep their medications available.

Kemp relaxed prescription rules in late March to allow pharmacists to dispense a 90-day medication supply if a patient had no remaining refills and their pharmacist was unable to contact the prescriber to get approval for a refill.

Kirkpatrick sponsored a similar measure, Senate Bill 391, that is currently winding through the state House. The 2020 legislative session is scheduled to conclude on Friday.


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