Prescriptions Aren't Forever

March 25, 2008

Twice in recent months, Sibylle and I have discovered that prescriptions aren't forever.  Our oldest cat, Nekko, has diabetes and consequently gets insulin twice daily.  The original prescription was labeled "99 refills," which at roughly three months per fill, would last for more than 24 years.

Imagine my surprise to have a refill denied because it had expired.  It turns out that prescriptions are only good for one year, regardless of the number of refills indicated.  I suppose it is reasonable to require an annual visit to the issuing doctor to reevaluate the need, the medication, and the dosage, but it would have been nice to have some advanced warning.

Last week Sibylle's supply of Midrin was nearing its end, so we went by the pharmacy to get a refill.  We had already run into a problem transferring this prescription since it is for a narcotic, so we shouldn't have been too surprised to learn that prescriptions for narcotics don't even last a year - they expire at six months.

In Nekko's case we were able to call the vet's office and get a new prescription phoned in without a doctor's visit.  However, Sibylle is going to be forced to wait two weeks until she can see her doctor to get a new prescription for her migraine medication.  Insulin is given on a schedule in set amounts, so it is easy to predict when a refill will be needed.  We can schedule it on the calendar, and make sure to have a doctor visit prior to the annual renewal requirement.

Migraines do not occur on a schedule.  Sibylle might go weeks without needing her Midrin and then need it several times in just a few days.  In order to prevent her from running out in the future she now has to schedule twice-yearly doctor visits just to get a new prescription in case she needs it.  That her current supply of Midrin last well past the six month date (and that there was still and unused refill on the prescription) is a testament to the unpredictable nature of Migraines.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.