How To Get an Urgent Refill on a Restricted Medication

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So you need an urgent 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’s the best way to keep track of all this nonsense, and what exactly do you say to make this magic happen?! Let me lay our your options for how to get that urgent refill in your hand.

Includes: Step-by-step instructions and a free downloadable script to help you communicate with your doctor’s office and pharmacy

Preface: Don’t Let It Come To This!

Don’t wait until the day before your script is out to try to get an urgent refill. The more important a med is, the more wiggle room you need to leave your pharmacy.  Do what you can to avoid being in aposition where you have to carefully choose your words and your stress is through the roof.  Set up automated refills! Sset up reminders! Set up alarms! Set up alerts– however your brain works, do what you can to keep on top of this stuff.

Before anything else, download a free medical log here and start keeping track of your contacts with doctors, pharmacists and medical staff. It may save your ass in significant ways. And even if not, it’s good to keep track of things.

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 an urgent refill 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. Their automated line it will say “Your meds will be ready at 9 AM tomorrow,” . Don’t believe it! Sometimes the automated system will immediately say “We need to contact your doctor about this refill,” but but it’ll still be ready at 9 AM.” Don’t listen! Maybe it works that way with some meds, maybe that works as it is supposed to a lot of the time, but you cannot depend on that if you urgently need your meds.

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Call (actually 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.)

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

  • Who you’re trying to reach

  • why you were calling,

  • what you need them to do,

  • when it needs to be done

  • & why it’s important it be done ASAP

Next? You wait. Double check with your pharmacy.  Pet your doggos. Wait more.

itsa doggo

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 update. 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 you can reiterate when you’ll be there to pick it up and the importance of it being ready then.

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!

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 PM.”

White man in tan blazer sitting at whtie table with white background,  yelling into a white landline phone

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 who might be struggling just to get through the damn day. 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.

What if you still don’t hear back after multiple messages? Time to examine your urgent refill 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 someone’s 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!

Pin these so you can find your way back!

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Hopefully this site will help you avoid some of the BS I’ve experienced over the last 20 years seeking treatment for my chronic pain, invisible illnesses & mental health challenges. Maybe it’ll even help you think about disability in a new way! But at the very least, I hope you learn something, and I hope it helps you feel less alone.

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