Refilling Prescriptions Early to Avoid Holiday Stress

Planning prescription refills with your pharmacy before you depart for the holidays

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

As the busiest part of the holiday season approaches, it can be hard to finish an endless to-do list before leaving on vacation. Don't forget to plan ahead and refill your prescriptions.

Medication can be one of the most difficult things to purchase when traveling out of town. Running out of a prescription while on vacation can be irritating at best and dangerous at worst.

But if you plan ahead, refilling prescriptions can be easy and painless.

dailyRx News spoke to Austin pharmacist Sarah Lott, PharmD, about the importance of getting medications refilled, how to remember and what to do if you forget.

Before You Leave, Refill

Running out of medicine during the middle of a vacation could interrupt your holiday plans. Pharmacist Sarah Lott says, "If you don't refill before you go, you run the risk of having to find a pharmacy to transfer your prescriptions to in the city you are visiting."

In the worst case scenario, the pharmacy that you are visiting may be out of your medication or unable to dispense it.

For patients who are traveling out of state or out of the country, additional restrictions may apply for obtaining prescription medications. Prescriptions may not transfer, and some states prohibit controlled medications from being filled if they were prescribed by out-of-state physicians.

According to Lott, patients should start making plans to refill medications up to two weeks before leaving home.

"Two weeks before you depart, you should check the number of tablets you have remaining," Lott advises.

To determine how much of each medication you need, multiply the days you will be away from home by how many pills you take per day. Add a few extra days' worth of medicine in case a travel delay occurs.

Once you know how much medicine you will need during your vacation, call your pharmacist to request a refill and let him or her know that you are going on vacation.

It's important to get the process started early, as the pharmacy may need to contact the medication's prescriber to request additional refills.

Additionally, your pharmacist may need to contact your insurance company so you do not have to pay additional fees for receiving your prescription in advance.

Make a List and Check It Twice

When making holiday plans, don't forget to add "refill prescriptions" to the top of your checklist.

Lott suggests calling your pharmacy when you take your medications or putting a note on top of your pill bottle.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you may also want to pack a travel health kit complete with over-the-counter medications and bandages.

Your health kit could include pain relievers, decongestants, cough drops, sunscreen and first-aid items along with your prescription medications.

The CDC notes that you should pack your prescription medications in your carry-on luggage in case your checked baggage gets lost. They also advise packing copies of your prescriptions.

The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) also requires liquid medication in carry-on bags to be 3.4 ounces or less.

If you do forget to refill medication before a vacation, you should contact the most convenient pharmacy and request a prescription transfer.

"Always contact the pharmacy first to request the refill so that they may make a formal request to the prescriber's office," Lott said.

If the situation is urgent, let the pharmacist and prescriber know that a quick response is needed.

Medications without valid refills remaining may take more time to fill, as the pharmacy would have to contact the prescribing physician to request another prescription.

But with enough planning, you shouldn't have to rush around to get a prescription filled during vacation. Contact your pharmacy early and pick up your medicines before you leave so you can make the most out of your vacation.

Review Date: 
December 12, 2013