Human Services

Pharmacy - Articles

Prescription Refills
By Nicole Madsen

Are you fed up with the time it takes to sometimes get your prescriptions refilled? If there are no refills remaining, it can take a few days for us at the pharmacy to get the authorization we need to renew your medication. Perhaps the following explanation will ease some frustrations.

There are two situations in which the pharmacy needs to contact your doctor before refilling a prescription. The first situation occurs when a current prescription is over one year old. State law mandates that prescriptions are void after one year from the date they were written. Thus, if a prescription is written out in January of 2008, that prescription is only valid until January 2009 even if there are refills remaining. This means that even if your doctor intends for you to be on the medication for the rest of your life, the pharmacy needs a new prescription for that medication at least every year. There are exceptions; some medications require a new prescription every six months. Medications that fall into this category are controlled substances such as pain medications, anti-anxiety medications, and sleeping aids. These medications are mainly for short-term use, so there is seldom a problem with expiration dates. It is the long term, chronic medications that patients will be on for the rest of their lives that prescription expiration dates play a role. Please be aware of this one-year expiration dating and be sure to schedule exams at least once a year with your provider in order to get renewed prescriptions.

The second situation in which the pharmacy has to contact the patient’s doctor in order to refill a prescription is when there are no further refills authorized on the medication. Whatever reason the provider has for not putting refills on the initial or subsequent prescriptions, we at the pharmacy do not know. Before we can refill the medication, however, the pharmacy, by law, has to get authorization from the physician who wrote the initial order.

Sometimes these authorizations take days and there are several reasons for delays in these situations. The doctor(s) may be out of the office for the day and other providers do not know enough about the patient’s situation to feel comfortable refilling the drug. Providers may be waiting to get lab results back, or may be waiting for the patient to return to the clinic for a check-up before refilling the drugs. Providers may be extremely busy with scheduled patient appointments and just do not get a chance to look over refill requests until the next day. The best advice to try to avoid a situation like this one is to bring all of your medications with you to each scheduled appointment. Even if you think you have refills remaining, go over each drug with your provider. Establish a timeline of how long he/she anticipates your being on the medication. Make sure both you and your provider are on the same page as to how often your medications will be refilled and how often to schedule follow-up appointments. There is no need to ask pharmacy for refills if you have a scheduled appointment. An appointment is the perfect time for you to discuss your medications with your provider and have him/her renew them. We cannot stress enough how good communication between you and your provider is essential in the speedy refilling of your medications. We in the pharmacy serve as a link between providers and medication refills for the patients, but we in no way decide which medications get refilled or control how long it takes to get the refill authorization.