You may have heard advice (from us, even!) to pack extra medications when you go on vacation, or to stash a generous supply in your emergency preparedness kit. But if the medications you take regularly are prescription ones, where are you supposed to get all these extra doses? Enter the early refill.
Normally, you can only refill a prescription when your supply is coming to an end. But for most medications, it’s possible to get an early refill on occasion. Reasons that are usually allowed include:
- You’re going on vacation, and need extra to be able to make it through the trip and have enough on hand in case of travel delays.
- Your medication has been lost or stolen.
- There is a weather emergency potentially on the way—for example, if forecasts are predicting a hurricane for your area.
You may also be able to get early refills for other reasons, such as when you’re leaving a job. Policies vary, but in this Reddit thread several people report being able to get a “vacation” refill in cases like these without having to pretend that they were going on vacation.
How to request an early refill
The process of requesting an early refill involves some back-and-forth between your pharmacist and your insurance company, and may sometimes involve your provider. For this reason, you should ask about the refill when there’s still plenty of time—not the day before you leave for vacation.
Typically, the pharmacist will have to ask the insurance company for an override, a process that is sometimes quick but that may involve a phone call during business hours and a wait for a response. If you have a few days’ warning of the issue that is prompting you to get an early refill, contact the pharmacy as soon as you know.
Early refills are not usually available for controlled medications, like opioids. Talk to your pharmacist about what’s eligible and what your options are if you can’t get early refills of everything. If you’re traveling, sometimes you can get your prescription transferred to a pharmacy at your destination.
In some states, pharmacies are specifically authorized to dispense early refills during emergencies. In Florida, for example, if the governor has issued a proclamation of emergency, pharmacists can dispense a 30-day supply of essential medications and notify the provider afterward. The CDC has a list of prescription emergency state laws here.