How To Get an Urgent Refill on a Restricted Medication

by Janet Jay
Includes: Step-by-step instructions and a script to help you communicate with to your doctor and pharmacy

So you need a refill on your pain pills or another med under heavy restrictions, and you need it now.  How do you make your doctor understand the situation? How do you make sure the pharmacy cooperates with them? What exactly do you say to make this magic happen?! Let me lay it out for you. 

Preface: Don’t Let It Come To This!

Don’t wait until the day before your script is out to try to get a refill. The more important a med is, the more wiggle room you need to leave your pharmacy.  You want to do what you can to avoid being in exactly this position, where you have to carefully choose your words and your stress is through the roof.  Set up automated refills, set up reminders, set up alarms, set up alerts– however your brain works, do what you can to keep on top of this stuff. However: shit happens, lines get crossed, to-do lists get forgotten, and sometimes you find yourself in this position whether you like it or not. So when you really need a refill and you need it now, here’s what to do.

Don’t believe your pharmacy’s automated line

I use Walgreens so let’s use it as an example. If you call in a refill on their automated line it will say “Your meds will be ready at 9 AM tomorrow, is that OK?” and after you assent, they’ll assure you it’ll be there. Don’t believe it! Sometimes the automated system will immediately say “We need to contact your doctor about this refill, but it’ll still be ready at 9 AM.” Don’t listen to them! Maybe that’s how it works with some medications, maybe that works as it supposed to a lot of the time, but you cannot depend on that if you urgently need your meds.

Call your doctor first thing 

The next morning, within an hour or so of the office opening, you call your doctor. Here’s the message I would leave for the nurse:
Hi this is Janet Jay, I am a patient of Dr. Whoever and I’m calling because I am completely out of Medication X. I took my final dose this morning and will need to pick them up before my next dose at 4 PM, so it’s extremely important to get this called in as soon as possible to the [pharmacy] at [address/cross streets]. If there are any problems don’t hesitate give me a call at [phone number]; if there are no issues, there’s no need to get in contact with me! Thank you SO much for your help on this, I really appreciate it.
(The bit about calling back is optional but I always stick it in to save them a little bit of effort: you want to stay on the good side of the office staff as much as you possibly can.)

WAS THIS SCRIPT HELPFUL? SUBSCRIBE TO MY MAILING LIST AND RECEIVE A PDF WITH LINES AND INSTRUCTIONS FOR THREE CALLS OF INCREASING URGENCY 


Take a look at that script: there are a lot of important hooks in there. No matter what, you MUST say: your name, your doctor, your medication, how much you have left, if it’s time sensitive and just how much, your pharmacy, and your phone number.

No matter how you word it, you have to make sure you communicate

  • why you were calling,
  • what you need them to do, 
  • when you need them to do it 
  • & why you need them to do it then

Next step: Wait. Double check with your pharmacy. 

itsa doggo
Waiting sucks.
You’ve left the message above and are hoping to hear back soon. Most pharmacies have an automated system or app that you can check prescription status on— unfortunately, it really varies how quickly they are updated. That’s fine normally but when you are waiting at home with bated breath, trying to play middleman between a doctors office and the pharmacy about a medication you have to have ASAP, you don’t want to call and nag your doctor about calling in a script that they’ve already called in an hour ago. Not that it would be the end of the world if you made that mistake, of course, but when you’re asking for slightly special treatment you really want to be aware that you’re asking for special treatment. All that to say: even if the Walgreens app says they’re still waiting to hear from your doctor, you need to actually call and ask a real person whether your doctor’s office has gotten in touch. Half the time they’ve already heard from the doctor and it just hasn’t updated yet. But even then, the call isn’t a waste because then you can reiterate when you’ll be there to pick it up and how important it is that it’s ready at that time.  The big thing is to be aware of what you’re doing and what you’re asking of people. Hopefully you don’t find yourself in this position often! But when you do, remember:
(Don’t do this. Even when you feel like it.)

Lay out what your problem is, what needs to be done about it, when that needs to be done and why. Stay polite, stay professional, state details and facts clearly. 

I’ve definitely had refill sagas that made me cry, but leaving a sob-ridden message only goes so far: a doctors office going to take you so much more seriously if you say something like

“as of yesterday afternoon I am out of my pain medication which I usually take every twelve hours, I woke up this morning and my pain level was an eight so it’s incredibly important that my refill gets called in before noon today so I can pick it up before my next dose is due at 4.”

See what I did there, with a lot of very specific details, a legitimate reason why I’m asking for the things I’m asking, and a call to action? That’s your goal.

I hope this script manages to help some people going through a hard time–phone calls can be so daunting and anxiety-ridden that a lot of people avoid them, but they’re really crucial for problems like this.

REMEMBER: SUBSCRIBE TO MY MAILING LIST FOR A PDF SCRIPT FOR THREE DIFFERENT CALLS


What if you still don’t hear back after multiple messages? Time to examine your options. 

Do you have your doctor’s email or some way to contact them? Is there a different line you could call where you speak to a person instead of leaving a message? Are you close enough to the office that you can come in physically? You’ll have a much better chance of stealing a couple minutes of someones’ time that way. And that’s it! Did I leave anything out? Do you have other questions or did this post help you in some way? Let me know on social media!

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