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The Difference Between Prescription Renewal and Refill

Prescription medications help tens of millions of people around the world. From antibiotics to high blood pressure medications, prescription drugs allow us to treat illnesses and injuries that were not so easily treated generations ago. And yet, every prescription comes with limits. This is easily observed in the differences between prescription renewal and refill.

Although patients may use the terms interchangeably, renewals and refills are not the same thing. It pays to know the difference when you are running low on a current prescription. The last thing anyone wants is to be caught without the necessary medication.

Why Prescriptions Exist

The first thing to know is why prescriptions exist. The drugs provided by way of doctor prescriptions are drugs that, due to government regulations, need to be controlled. For one reason or another, it is simply not safe to sell them over the counter. By making them prescription only, regulators ensure that the drugs are only used under the supervision of a qualified medical professional.

Amitriptyline is a good example. This drug is primarily used to treat mental illnesses ranging from chronic depression to anxiety disorders. However, it has also been found to be an effective treatment for ADHD and fibromyalgia. Used improperly, it can cause a number of uncomfortable side effects. Overdosing on the drug can easily lead to death.

Like so many other prescription medications, amitriptyline is safe to use with proper supervision. Yet it is too dangerous to sell over the counter. Thus, it is only available with a doctor’s prescription.

Renewals and Refills

When a doctor writes a prescription, they decide how long a particular medication should be used. Some drugs are used in perpetuity. These are known as prophylactics. Other drugs are only taken for a certain amount of time. An antibiotic, like penicillin, is a good example of time-limited prescription drugs.

A doctor may prescribe penicillin for three months. The prescription is broken down into monthly increments, meaning you have the prescription filled one month at a time. You obtain the first month’s supply the same day you receive the prescription. You go back for refills on the second and third months.

There will be no refills remaining following that third bottle of pills. If you were to need more penicillin, the doctor would have to write a brand-new prescription. This is known as the renewal. Without it, you can no longer purchase the drug.

How Pharmacies Handle Renewals and Refills

Refills at most pharmacies are seamless. A doctor’s prescription clearly indicates how many refills are available to a patient. You simply return to the same pharmacy for each one. As for renewals, they are bit more difficult to obtain. This is by design.

There are some brick-and-mortar pharmacies that offer one-time renewals without an immediate prescription for patients who are on prophylactic medications. Said pharmacies have established relationships with local doctors for such purposes. Renewals without new prescriptions are not possible for non-prophylactic medications.

Online pharmacies, like Canada Drugs Direct, are reticent to offer renewals without new prescriptions for the simple fact that they do not generally have working relationships with local doctors. As online entities, they operate somewhat independently.

The best way to avoid renewal complications is to keep an eye on your medications diligently. Upon obtaining the last refill of a particular drug, consider whether or not you think you might need a renewal. If you do, contact your doctor for further instructions. You may have to go in for a visit. On the other hand, the doctor may be able to renew your prescription over the phone.

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