How To Refill a Prescription Step-by-Step and FAQ

Written by Ally Streelman

NowRx Pharmacy

How To Refill a Prescription

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, getting a prescription refill is more straightforward than it seems.

We will walk you through the steps to refill a prescription and answer common questions below. 

Check Your Prescription Label 

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, 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 come in handy during the next step. 

Contact Your Pharmacy

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

While different pharmacies will have different options for requesting a refill, at NowRx Pharmacy we have 3 easy ways to do so:

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!

When to Refill a Prescription

While refilling a prescription is as simple as that, there is a right and a wrong time to do so. 

We have all gone to take medication only to realize we’re staring down an empty orange bottle. Don’t let that be you. 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 a daily dose of your medication.  

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 exceptions.

Exceptions can include if you need a refill early because you will be traveling or if you lose your medication. Many insurance companies will cover an early refill for one-off cases such as these but your pharmacist may require some sort of explanation.

It’s also important to refill your medication by the refill date listed on the prescription label. Refills do expire, and once they do, you’ll need to contact your doctor for a new prescription. 

What if You’re 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. 

Some pharmacies, such as here at NowRx Pharmacy, will even contact the doctor’s office on your behalf to request a refill.

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 prescription 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?

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 a pharmacist refuse to fill a prescription?

Yes, your pharmacist can use their professional judgment to refuse to fill or refill your prescription. Some states also have laws in place, called conscience clauses, that give pharmacists the right to refuse to fill a prescription based on personal morals and beliefs. 

Questions about your refill? 

If you would like to refill a prescription using NowRx Pharmacy and set your prescription up for free same day pharmacy delivery, check out our online refill and transfer prescriptions form.

For more free health tips, resources, and news, subscribe to our weekly newsletter or if you have questions about pharmacy delivery send us an email at

Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice and the information provided throughout the website, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material are for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and you should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers if you have questions regarding a medical condition or treatment or before starting or stopping any healthcare or health related regimen. Do not ever disregard or delay seeking medical advice from a qualified professional because of something you have read on
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