how to use them, how long they last-

Of Chiara Daina

After the former “red” also the “white” one is about to be adopted in all the Regions in the new format. Medicines, tests and visits follow different paths

There are different types of medical prescriptions and the emergency situation determined by Covid has accelerated the dematerialization process of this document. The old “red recipe” paper used to request services and drugs (in band A) paid by the National Health Service (NHS) was replaced throughout Italy by the electronic one, valid in any region (the citizen can go to the pharmacy in another region and be entitled to the drug, at the cost of the ticket applied in his region or exempt). And from 2020 also the memo issued by the doctor on a white sheetwith the electronic prescription number (nre) to be communicated to the pharmacy (to request what is prescribed), has been digitized.

The identification code can be sent to the patient via email, text message or instant messaging application. Or it can be communicated over the phone. You can also consult and download the former red recipe through your own Electronic health recordon which it is directly loaded. The one that prescribes diagnostic tests and specialist visits, in some regions, can be recovered by accessing only this tool.

Who can prescribe them

Only general practitioners, pediatricians of free choice and specialists
of a public or affiliated structure are authorized to issue the prescription of drugs, exams and specialist visits reimbursable by the NHS. The electronic prescription to book exams and specialist visits lasts from 6 to 12 months according to the region. The one to withdraw the drugs expires after 30 days, for a maximum of 2 packs (3 for chronic and rare diseases).

The white recipe

With the decree of 30 December 2020, the “white recipe” was also introduced

electronics. The white prescription is the one that the doctor has so far compiled on the personal recipe book for the prescription of class C drugs not charged to the NHS, and therefore paid for by the citizen (such as painkillers and anti-inflammatories but not only). The Regions where the dematerialized version is already in operation are P
Piedmont, Valle d’Aosta, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Sicily e the two autonomous provinces of Bolzano and Trento. At the end of March will be adopted in Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Puglia and in April in Basilicata and Sardinia. The electronic white recipe number (nrbe) is sent to the patient in the same way as described above for the former red recipe. The most common form of white recipe is the repeatable one, i.e. with a validity of 6 months and during that period the medicine can be dispensed up to a maximum of 10 times. Psychotropic drugs are an exception: in this case l
a recipe is valid for 30 days for no more than 3 packs.


“The doctor can countersign a waiver to increase the number of packs to cover the month of therapy,” he explains Alessandro Politi, secretary for the province of Milan of the Italian Society of General Medicine (Simg). The non-repeatable recipe, on the other hand, is necessary for all drugs that can cause toxicity acute (i.e. after a single administration) or with prolonged use, and require continued monitoring by the physician. “Like opiates and some painkillers. The recipe is valid for 30 days and there is no maximum number of packages to indicate, ”says Politi.


It intramoenia specialist or who works in a private practice cannot prescribe drugs or services paid for by the NHS. It issues a white sheet medical prescription with which the patient can purchase prescription drugs at full price.

Exams and visits

If, on the other hand, diagnostic tests or specialist visits are recommended, to carry them out in a public regime, a prescription from a general practitioner will be essential. However, «when he deems the service not necessary based on the clinical history of his client the doctor may refuse to prescribe what the specialist requests»Stresses Politi.

Special cases

The electronic prescription is possible also for drugs containing narcotic and psychotropic substances and for pain therapy. Morphine-based drugs and opioid analgesic substances not intended for pain therapy are excluded, for which the obligation of a special medical prescription is still in force, based on a specific ministerial recipe book. Finally, it exists another type of recipe, the “limiting” one, drawn up on a white sheet by the specialist, for medicines dispensed to the public following a therapeutic or binding plan of specialized centers (which the general practitioner transcribes on an electronic prescription to be paid by the NHS, if in group A), or for those that can only be used in hospitals or outpatient. If you buy a prescription drug in one of the countries of the European Union, you have right to reimbursement of the cost incurredby applying to your local health authority with the receipt and recipe attached.

March 25, 2022 (change March 25, 2022 | 20:15)


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