Why would a doctor write a prescription on an ongoing medication for four weeks, no refills, then ask the patient to return in six weeks?

I can’t just punch an Rx number into the pharmacy’s phone to order my refill when there aren’t any refills.  I have to leave a voice message.  Then the people at the pharmacy have to listen to the message, look information up in their computer, and send a fax to my doctor’s office.  At the doctor’s office they do their thing and return the fax to the pharmacy.  Multiply that for numerous patients.

  • More work for the patient
  • More work for the pharmacy staff
  • More work for the doctor’s staff
  • More dead trees to generate all that fax paper

After a ton of excess paperwork, the prescription finally gets filled in two days instead of two hours.  It would be easier for everyone if the doctor would just write for the prescription to last until the follow-up appointment.  Allow one refill!

What do you think?
Would you just take the rx, knowing about the upcoming hassle,
or would you ask your doctor to allow one refill to last until your next appointment?


9 thoughts on “Why?

  1. I am having an issue with one of my doctors where she prescribed it as “take one pill a day for 1 week, then take 2 pills a day for one week, then take 4 pills per day” or something close to that. It had refills on it, so I thought nothing of my next appointment not being until February (I got this prescription in December I think). Well, I refilled it and just yesterday I realized that I had only a few days of medicine since I was taking 4 a day every day now. I spent hours on the phone, the doctors office had to call me to find out why I needed an early refill, etc. Tons of confusion for everyone! I know doctors are busy/rushed/only human but things like this drive me bananas. I think if I only had one doctor total, and it was only that one doctor I had to follow up and do this with it wouldn’t be as bothersome, but I feel like all I do lately is go to the doctor and fill prescriptions/deal with stuff like this.

  2. I’ve had this happen, too. It really IS one of the more annoying, even if small, screw-ups that happen as we deal with a chronic condition. Because my health care is through the VA, I can’t just call or drop by my doctor’s office (he practices at several different facilities). Instead, I have to go through the gauntlet of the VA’s telephone help system, often talking to several recordings, then real people before getting assurances that he’ll be contacted. Back when I was taking MTX, my rheumatologist prescribed too few tablets to last until the next appt, which was six weeks away still. I didn’t realize it until I had only a week’s supply left. No refills. Sigh.

    It took nearly two weeks before the corrected prescription was mailed to my home.

    Since the VA does everything electronically, even prescriptions (I don’t get a slip of paper to take to the pharmacy), now I go over what he’s prescribed, and how much, and when I should receive it, and remind him I’ll not be seeing him again for three months, BEFORE I leave the exam room and while he’s still sitting there. I know he’s busy; I know he has wayyyyy too many patients on his mind. He probably thinks I’m anal. But so far, it’s worked …

    I’m not sure what the answer is. Perhaps you should go over your scrips before leaving your rheumy’s office and work out the dates? Grrrr.

    • Oh, and yes. I’d definitely ask the doc to allow one extra refill. Why not? Just accepting it, knowing there’s trouble ahead, would make me nuts.

  3. I’d ask for the refill…but then I’m lucky enough not to have a doctor that does this to me.Somewhere along the line my time has to be worth something too. 🙂 Good luck!

  4. I had a doctor that would only write the refills in her office. She would not do a refills period. It was a royal pain in the neck. If my appointments would not correspond with when something needed refilling, I would have to drive the 45 minutes to her office to pick up the written prescription. I had to make sure that I went over all my prescriptions before each appointment so that I could make sure that I had the new prescription (which amounted to refills) at the end of each appointment.

    I would absolutely ask for the refill. At least have the conversation that this is a huge inconvenience.

    Oh, I don’t see that doctor anymore.

    Good Luck!

  5. I’m pretty sure that prescription was an error of an overworked mind. I appreciate it when patients bring oversights like this to my attention. It makes life easier for everyone.

  6. I totally agree that doctors should be more aware of the amount of arthritis medications they prescribe and pay attention to the details. It would be really unpleasant to deal with running out of medication, which could lead to unnecessary flare ups and pain.

  7. I see a doctor at a military hospital and get my meds at the pharmacy there. It’s 4 hours from where I live, so I try very hard to coordinate visits, refills and labwork all while I’m there, and it feels like pure luck when it actually all works out. I never see the doctor’s prescription… he punches it into a computer while I’m talking to him, and then I go to the pharmacy area to get it – I try to set appointments early in the day because about half the time there is an error of some sort and they need to talk to him to fix it (and if he’s gone, too bad for me).

    He deliberately sets some prescriptions to a very tight window (ie no refills that will overlap when I need labs or a visit) to make sure I make that trip and get the labs done. A couple times, he has tried to coordinate the prescriptions so that they all run out at about the same time – but then there are rules the pharmacy has about when things can be refilled, so there is usually one or two drugs I’m out of by the time my appointment comes up.

    Its a very strange ballet and feels like I’m always thinking how to coordinate the next round of visits – fortunately I have a friend in the vicinity that lets me stay there so i don’t have to try to do all that plus the long drive. I’m planning to move out that way in a year or so to be closer to my medical team.

  8. Both my doctors are different in that regard. My GP only give prescriptions without refills which then requires a trip to the office (no faxes allowed), and my Rheumatologist, who I only see quarterly gives out prescriptions with a minimum of 3 refills and if you do run out of something they fax it to the pharmacy. I’ve never understood that except that in Ontario a GP only gets 37 bucks a visit from the Government and nothing for telephone of fax work…ciao

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