Refilling Prescriptions

How To Refill A Prescription – What You Need To Know

Learning how to refill a prescription and take the medication as prescribed (medication adherence) is critical to your health. In fact, missing multiple doses because you can’t make it to the pharmacy to pick up your prescription or because you don’t know how to refill a prescription can set back your treatment plan dramatically.

Although there are some prescription refill rules to be aware of, it is more straightforward than it seems. Let’s take a look at the steps to refill a prescription, as well as some common questions you might have along the way!

Learning how to refill a prescription is a relatively straightforward process no matter what pharmacy you use. Let’s take a look at the basic steps you will need to take to refill a prescription at any pharmacy.

Check Your Prescription Label

Prescription Medicine Labels

The first step to refilling a prescription is to make sure you have refills available. You can determine this by looking at the label on your prescription bottle or box. It should say “refills” with a number next to it and a date by which you need to refill it. To refill your prescription without seeing your doctor, this number should be greater than 0.

If it says 0 or the date has passed, then you are not eligible for a refill just yet. In other words, you will need to set up an appointment with your doctor or ask your pharmacist to request a new prescription on your behalf. If you are eligible for a refill, hang onto your prescription bottle because it will help your pharmacy identify the prescription and approve a refill.

Contact Your Doctor (if necessary)

If you don’t have any refills remaining, you will need to contact your doctor. Depending on your doctor and the medication, they may be able to approve a prescription refill over the phone. However, for controlled substances and some other health conditions, your doctor may need you to make an appointment first. Set up an appointment as soon as possible in order to avoid any delays in your treatment.

Coordinate With The Pharmacy


Once you are approved for a prescription refill, all you need to do is coordinate with the pharmacy. You’ll likely need to reference the Rx number on your  label and verify your identity. If, for some reason, you have misplaced the label or thrown away the box, you can ask your pharmacist to look up the prescription you’re requesting.

When you contact your pharmacist for a refill prescription, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Are you experiencing any side effects from the medication? Are you having trouble swallowing the pills or wondering if you can take an over-the-counter medicine at the same time?

Your pharmacist is an incredible resource to talk to about any questions or concerns you have so be sure to use them!

How to get a refill without a doctor

To get a prescription refill without a doctor, you must have refills remaining on your prescription. An easy way to check this is by checking your bottle or box. There should be a portion that says refills with a number next to it and a date. This is the number of refills remaining and the date by which they need to be filled.

When to Do It

While requesting a refill is generally pretty simple, it is important to know when to refill a prescription. You should begin the process of requesting a refill when you have about 7 days’ worth of medication left. This is especially important if you have a health condition that requires daily medication.

Additionally, it is important to refill your medication by the refill date listed on the prescription label. This is because refills can expire, and once they do, you’ll need to contact your doctor for a new prescription.

We have all gone to take our medication only to realize we’re staring down at an empty orange bottle – don’t let that be you. Give yourself plenty of time to request a refill and talk with your pharmacist about options if you run into any trouble.

How early can you refill a prescription?

Prescription refill

Generally, 7 days is the earliest you will be able to request a refill if your prescription is covered by insurance since your drug plan will only cover an allowed amount within a certain period of time. For instance, your plan may only cover 30 pills for 30 days. However, there are a few exceptions to this.

For example, if you need a refill early because you are traveling or have lost your medication, then many insurance plans will allow an exception. The only catch is that your pharmacist may require some sort of explanation in order to allow an early fill for these one-off cases.

How many days early can I refill a narcotic prescription?

The DEA prohibits a narcotic prescription from being refilled. In other words, Schedule 2 controlled substances like Oxycontin and Adderall will require a prescriber to write a new prescription every time.

In special cases, an individual practitioner may issue multiple prescriptions for up to a total of 90 days’ supply of a Schedule 2 controlled substance, provided that specific conditions are met. However, a pharmacist may still refuse to fill a prescription that they deem inappropriate. Individual practitioners must decide on their own, along with established medical standards, whether it is appropriate to issue multiple prescriptions.

What If You Run Out of Refills

If you have met the number of refills listed on your prescription label or you don’t have any refills, you will need to contact your doctor. In some cases, they may be able to approve a refill over the phone. However, if you have already had multiple refills and it’s been some time since your last check-up, you’ll likely need to schedule an appointment.

Keep this in mind if you are nearing the bottom of your bottle and out of refills. Try to be proactive and make sure you talk with your doctor ahead of time, so you don’t miss a dose.

How to get an emergency refill

If you do find yourself out of medication and unable to reach your doctor, you may be able to get an emergency prescription refill.

Many states have laws that allow emergency refills in this case or in the case of loss or damage. These laws, inspired by Kevin’s Law, are meant to provide an emergency supply of life-saving medications, such as insulin, when a prescriber can’t be reached. Depending on the state, pharmacists can dispense an emergency 72-hour or 30-day supply.

Keep in mind that these laws don’t apply to all medications and exclude controlled substances such as painkillers. If you’re in need of an emergency prescription, contact your healthcare provider and your pharmacist to get the medication you need as soon as possible.

Can I refill my prescription without insurance?

prescription without insurance

Yes, you can refill your prescription without insurance. If you want to refill your prescription before your insurance will allow it, you can simply pay for it out-of-pocket. This is the case only if you have refills available.

You can also reach out to your doctor and submit a quantity limit exception request. If your insurance grants your request, you will be able to refill your prescription without needing to pay for it out-of-pocket.

Can I call my doctor to get a prescription refill?

Yes, you can call your doctor to get a prescription refill. However, depending on your health condition and medication, they may require you to make an appointment. In addition, some states may require an appointment and physical examination to write a prescription. Be proactive and talk with your doctor ahead of time to figure out what you will need to do for them to approve a prescription refill.

Can A Pharmacist Refuse To Do It?

Yes, a pharmacist can refuse to fill or refill a prescription based on their professional judgment. Pharmacists are medication experts, and their judgment is paramount to ensuring patient safety. As a result, they are entrusted to make appropriate decisions regarding when a prescription should be filled and when it should be denied.

In addition, several states have laws in place called “conscience clauses” that give pharmacists the right to refuse to fill a prescription based on personal morals and beliefs.

Can you transfer prescription refills to another pharmacy?

Yes, you can transfer prescription refills to another pharmacy. Assuming your prescription has refills available, the process to switch pharmacies should be relatively quick and easy. Most prescription transfers should take less than 24 hours and will only require some basic information about the patient and prescription. To expedite the process, talk with your new pharmacy to figure out what they will need to get your prescription transferred.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What should I do if my prescription medication is recalled?

In case of a recall, contact your pharmacy or healthcare provider immediately for advice on the appropriate action, which may include switching medications or adjusting dosages.

2. Can prescription refills be automated or set to refill automatically?

Many pharmacies offer automatic refill programs where eligible prescriptions are refilled on a recurring schedule. Check with your pharmacy if this service is available and suitable for your medications.

3. How does the transition from pediatric to adult dosages affect prescription refills?

Transitioning from pediatric to adult dosages can require new prescriptions and dosage adjustments. Consult your healthcare provider for guidance during this transition.

4. Are there any special considerations for refilling prescriptions during holidays or weekends?

Plan ahead for holidays or weekends, as some pharmacies may have reduced hours. Consider requesting refills several days in advance to avoid running out of medication.

5. Can I request a prescription refill if I’m switching healthcare providers?

Yes, but ensure your new provider is informed about your current medications. They may need to review and approve refills or provide new prescriptions.

6. How do prescription refills work for seasonal or as-needed medications?

For medications used seasonally or as needed, talk with your pharmacist or doctor about the best approach to refills, considering the medication’s shelf life and your specific needs.

7. What is the impact of changing health insurance on prescription refills?

A change in health insurance can affect medication coverage. Check with your new insurer about coverage and potential changes to your medication costs or eligibility for refills.

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