Practically everyone has had the heart-pounding experience of running out of medicine by accident. You go to take your daily dose of a prescription and upon opening the bottle discover it to be empty.
Thinking you can get a quick refill, you call the pharmacy but alas, there are no refills left on the prescription. They offer to fax a refill request to your doctor but hours later, you call and find out the doctor hasn’t responded yet. You scramble to call the doctor’s office but the nurse who handles refills isn’t available so you have to leave a message and keep your fingers crossed.
Ultimately, running out of medication you are taking for an ongoing condition, like diabetes, or for an acute injury, like a herniated disc (see: https://www.vivehealth.com/pages/back-injury-pain) can negatively impact your health. In addition to simply forgetting to refill your prescription, you may find yourself short on medicine because:
You or your caregiver are sick and unable to get to the pharmacy
Insurance mishaps result in delayed or unfilled prescriptions
The pharmacy is out of your prescription and has to order it
An inclement weather event prevents you from getting to the pharmacy
Keep these 7 quick tips in mind for managing medications and never run out of medicine again:
Build up a backup supply
Acquiring extra medicine to have a backup supply in the event you do run out of medicine isn’t easy. Afterall, you only get a prescription for the exact amount of medicine you need over a certain time, i.e. a month or three months. To build a backup supply:
Ask your pharmacist when your medicine is eligible for a refill under your insurance plan; it will typically be between 25 and 27 days, not a full month.
With this knowledge, plan on refilling your prescriptions early each month and saving the extra pills for emergencies.
Ask for a longer prescription
If the difficulty in remembering refills lies in the fact that you are refilling multiple medications every single month, it may be worth asking your doctor if they can write your prescription to cover a longer time period, i.e. a 90-day supply vs. a 30-day supply. You will need to make sure your insurance will cover a lengthier supply of medicine, but this can be incredibly helpful and limit the amount of time and energy you spend each year refilling medications.
Use a pill organizer
Avoid accidentally over-taking medicine and running out at the end of the month by utilizing basic pill organizers. You can find an array of color-coded pill organizers in your pharmacy or online offering easy ways to sort your pills by day of the week and even by the time of the day (i.e. morning, noon, night). Plan on filling your pill organizer on the same day each week so it becomes a scheduled task and you are always filling for a week (or more) at a time.
Sign up for home delivery
If the pharmacy you use offers a free or discounted home delivery option, this may be worth taking advantage of, especially if you or a loved one you care for is home-limited. If you frequently run out of medicine because a trip to the pharmacy isn’t immediately feasible, or because a prescription has to be filled at a partner pharmacy, routine home delivery could be helpful.
Take advantage of pharmacy apps
Gone are the days of having to call the pharmacy to refill a prescription. In the digital age, many large pharmacies offer apps you can download to your smartphone as well as online accounts which help you manage and fill prescriptions with a few simple clicks. Some even allow you to use your smartphone’s camera to scan the barcode on your prescription bottle and submit it for a refill.
If retirement has you or your loved one traveling to far-off destinations, keep these critical prescription travel tips in mind for avoiding running out of medicine:
Always carry prescriptions in your carry-on luggage. In the event a checked bag does not make it to your destination on time, you do not want to be without your medicine.
Bring along prescription labels with your pharmacy and doctor’s office information as well as your insurance card. If you need to refill a prescription at a pharmacy at your destination, you’ll need this information.
Be smart about temperature requirements. Most medications require a temperature storage climate, however, there are also those which must remain refrigerated. If you are traveling by car, avoid stashing medicine in your trunk or glove compartment. For refrigerated medicines, store in an insulated carrier with an ice pack.