Exactly what to say to your doctor to get an urgent refill on the meds you need

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Free step-by-step instructions with the exact wording to communicate with your doctor & get that crucial refill ASAP

You need an urgent refill on your pain pills, brain pills or another controlled med ASAP. How do you make your doc understand & act? How do you play middleman with your pharmacy? How do you keep track of it all? And exactly what do you say to make this magic happen?!?! Don’t worry! This post explains your options for how to get that urgent refill. I’ll even throw in a printable script (no, not THAT kind of script) with effective voicemail messages for your medical team that you can customize with your own info.

Preface: Don’t let it come to this!

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Download a free medical contact log to track your interactions with your doctors etc 

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 doctor & pharmacy.  Do what you can to avoid being in a position where you have to carefully choose your words and your stress is through the roof.  Set up automated refills! Reminders! Alarms of all types! Now is the time to 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 emergencies arise. Sometimes you find yourself in this position whether you like it or not. So when you really need an urgent refill ASAP, here’s what to do.

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 default message I would leave.

Refill Call 1: Just after your doctor’s office opens

Hi this is Janet Jay, I am a patient of Dr. Martin calling because I am completely out of Medication A. I took my final dose this morning and am trying to pick them up before my next dose at 4 PM, so it’s important to get this called in as soon as possible to the Walgreens at State Ave. and Main St.  Thank you SO much for your help on this, and give me a call at 555-555-5555 if you have problems.

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 HOW time sensitive, if applicable), your pharmacy, and your callback phone number.

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No matter how you word it, you have to 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 to do ASAP

overhead view of two hands working a piece of knitting or crochet with a hook, two different kinds of yarn, a thimble, needles and other knitting supplies in tones of teal. Image from istock, by Svetlana Larshina
Knitting & crochet supplies are great gifts for a friend @ home with an invisible illness. Find out more here!

Next? You wait. Double check with your pharmacy.  Pet your doggos. Maybe learn how to crochet (and then teach me). Wait more.

Trying to get an urgent refill? Don’t trust your pharmacy’s app or automated line

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 and accurate their 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 your doctor about calling in a script that they’ve already called in an hour ago. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if you made that mistake, of course, but when I’m asking for special treatment I want to be aware that I’m asking for special treatment.

All that to say: even if the pharmacy 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 before nagging your doctor. 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! It lets you reiterate to the pharmacy tech when you’ll be there to pick it up and the importance of it being ready then. Remember, there’s a human there! If they know you’re actually waiting on it, they will often move you up the queue.

But if you still haven’t heard anything by lunch…

Call #2: Midday

Hi, Janet Jay again calling about the status of my Medication A refill. I left a message at 8:12 this morning about my need to get a refill script called into the Walgreens at State and Main, and I’m reaching out to check the status and stress the urgency a bit more. It’s crucial for my pain–and my job– to maintain continuity in my medication and I’m now completely out. If the pharmacy doesn’t get the script from you by the end of business today, I’ll miss both my 6 PM dose today and my 8 AM dose tomorrow, causing a lot of pain and disrupting some important plans. Please let me know at 555-555-5555 if there’s anything at all I can do to speed the process up. Thank you so much for your help on this.

Do NOT leave a message like this!

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I’ve definitely had refill sagas that made me cry, but leaving a sob-ridden message– or worse, a rage-filled rant–is not going to do you any good. Here’s a really bad example of a call that, best case scenario, will leave you at the bottom of the call-back list.

Listen, I’ve been calling and calling you over and over again for days. I thought picking up the phone was your job! It’s ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL that I get my meds refilled because I am completely out! The pharmacy won’t give me any, your office doesn’t answer half the time and every damn person I talk to says something completely different and contradictory about how to get a goddamn refill. I’m absolutely fed up with all these bullshit excuses and infuriated with this ridiculous runaround. I’ve left countless messages that you fools seem to be completely ignoring even as I’m missing doses and laid up here on the couch in pain– do you understand that people have to GO TO WORK?!? You had better get your act together and get me on the line with a real human IMMEDIATELY to resolve this clusterfuck or I’m going to call my lawyer and sue you for malpractice! 

If you left me that message I wouldn’t want to call you back either! It also doesn’t provide who’s calling, what med they need a refill on, the name of the pharmacy, when they called previously or who they spoke to.

Also, I kind of can’t believe I have to say this, but no profanity, no disrespect and no threats, of legal or any other variety. (Pro tip for life in general: using legal action as an empty threat will backfire more times than it will help. Especially in medical settings.) These are just people working a job and doing what their boss says. Whatever’s going on, it’s probably not their fault. Don’t unload on them just because they’re there.

Call #3 (early afternoon)

This is your last-ditch effort. Make it persuasive!

Hi, this is Janet Jay, calling for the third time. I previously left messages at 8:15 and 10:45 this morning regarding the urgent refill of my medication A to the pharmacy at State and Main. Unfortunately, I am now completely out and increasingly concerned about getting a refill sorted before the end of the day. I understand the complexities involved with controlled medications and am happy to help with any additional steps required, but your swift action on this would mean a great deal to me. Let me know if I can do anything to speed the process along– my contact #  is 555-555-5555. Thank you very much for your understanding and help, and sorry to have to keep calling!

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.

What if someone picks up?

Just hit the same who-what-why bullet points at the start of this document, and note their name on your medical log. That way on your next message, you can say “I spoke to a physician’s assistant named Monica at 9:23 AM and she told me….” 

What if you still don’t hear back after multiple messages? Time to examine your options to get that urgent refill

  • Do you have an email for the office or for your doctor specifically?
  • Is there a different line you could call where you speak to a person instead of leaving a message?
  • Is there a patient portal you can communicate through?
  • 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. 
  • Do you happen to know semaphore? (It won’t help you here, I’m just curious.)

Get that urgent refill on your controlled medication using this FREE customizable download with exactly what to say

Here are those 3 calls of increasing urgency with exactly what to say to your doctor on the days when you absolutely have to get them to call in the prescription for your controlled meds. Fill it in with your own details, then print for your medical binder or just save it in the cloud for the next time you find yourself in this unenviable position.

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. 

Do you have any tips & tricks for what to say to your medical team to get an urgent refill? Comment and let me know!

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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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