How Long Does It Take To Fill A Prescription? The Answers!

Posted March 30, 2020 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines

Filling a prescription at the pharmacy can be a daunting task for many. There’s not a single person who enjoys spending 30 minutes or more in a line to get a prescription filled. Why does it take so long to fill a prescription?

Of course, all the processes that go on behind a pharmacy counter may not be visible to us. But indeed, there are many procedures, steps, and verifications a single prescription will have to go through before the medications are handed over to you. 

This article will give a clear understanding of why prescriptions take so long, what goes on behind a pharmacy counter, and the things pharmacists have to deal with that can get in the way of getting a prescription filled. 

Here’s a quickfire answer to give you some idea, then we’ll get into more of the details and added extras!

How Long Does It Take To Fill A Prescription

How Long Does it Take to Fill a Prescription?  Filling a prescription takes a long time, mainly because of the following:

  • Verification of prescription information
  • Running through the pharmacy system 
  • Checking the availability of medications 
  • Contacting the insurance companies when necessary 
  • Filling the medication
  • Double-checking the pill bottles
  • Responding to inquiries

Although there may be many reasons why filling a prescription takes so long, depending on the type of pharmacy, their procedures, and so on, below are some common reasons why filling a prescription takes so long. 

Pharmacists Need To Verify All Information On The Prescription

When the prescription is handed over to a pharmacist, it’s the full responsibility of pharmacists to make sure they fill a prescription in a way that does not bring any harm to the patient.

For this, the pharmacists should be fully aware and clear on what is filled for the customers.

So, sometimes, especially in cases where the doctor’s handwriting is unclear or if certain prescriptions look faulty, it becomes crucial for the pharmacist to verify or double-check this information before filling them.

So, in this case, the pharmacist will have to reach out to the physicians’ office to verify the information needed before filling the prescription, which would take some time. 

Pharmacists Will Have To Run The Prescription Through The System

How Long Does It Take To Fill A PrescriptionWhen a prescription is handed over to a pharmacist, it will be run through the pharmacy system and the prescription filling process. This is done mainly to check the following:  

  • Are there any possible drug interactions with the other medicines the patient is taking
  • Does the dosage and strength of the medication match the age of the patient
  • Any drug allergies the patient might be having 
  • Whether or not the patient received the same medication earlier, especially if it’s a controlled substance 
  • Drug class duplications 

If there are any concerns with the following information, the pharmacists will again need to get it clarified from the physician’s office before filling a prescription. This again will take some time. 

Pharmacists Need To Check If The Medications Are Available

Like any other company, pharmacies too run out of stocks or can be short in supply. So, if the medication in the prescription is out of stock, the pharmacist may have to call suppliers and check when it can be made available to the patient. This process of calling and checking is again time-consuming. 

Pharmacists Need To Contact Insurance Companies When Necessary

Insured patients have different plans and coverage, so a pharmacist will have to check if the insurance plan covers the drugs prescribed and so on.

In some cases, the pharmacists may also have to verify information from the insurance company, which takes up time. The pharmacists can potentially refuse and keep a prescription, depending on the situation. 

One of the most important things about insurance plans is “prior authorization.” Prior authorization is approval needed by the insurance plan for a specific prescription medication to be filled, because of the high cost involved.

So, in this case, the insurance company will have to verify information from the doctor to either approve or deny a prior authorization. 

On average, a prior authorization takes up to 2 days. For this, unfortunately, the physician may also have to submit the necessary information to the insurance company, and it can be a whole new time-consuming process after all.

Filling The Medications Correctly

Only after a prescription goes through all these verifications and clarifications, can a pharmacists fill a prescription. Assuming they’re allowed to fill it.

But again, even while filling, a pharmacist should make sure the right dosage, the correct strength, and most importantly, the right medication is filled.

As part of filling the medication in the bottles, the pharmacist will also have to enter the details of the patient and the medicines filled into the system to keep records updated. There’s also the question of how long is a prescription valid for?

Double-Checking The Pill Bottles 

How Long Does It Take To Fill A Prescription

After filling a prescription and placing the medication in the bottle, it goes through a second verification, more like a double-check. This checking is done to make sure what is written on the doctor’s prescription matches what’s filled in the bottle and is in the right patients’ bottle.

Although it may seem easy to do, you may not be the only person waiting for prescriptions to be filled in a pharmacy. So, before one’s medication, there may be several other pill bottles that are there in the queue to be double-checked, just like how the customers are waiting in the line.

Pharmacists Will Have To Respond To Inquiries

A pharmacy is an organization and will have to deal with daily administrative tasks and duties. Apart from these, the pharmacists will have to deal with phone calls from doctor’s offices, physicians’, insurance companies, and even customers or patients for inquiries. 

Even after a prescription is filled, double-checked, and all are done, the pharmacists must instruct patients of anything necessary before handing it over to customers.

This includes how to take the medications if the patient has doubts, inform them about the side effects, and things to look for or avoid when taking the medication.

This whole process will have to be done customer by customer. 

So, until this whole process is over for one customer, the pharmacist can’t process the order of another prescription. As you can so, the process can become backed up depending on the customer being attended to. 

As such, pharmacists will have to multitask every day while staying calm and organized to avoid any mistakes.

To Finish

Although waiting in a pharmacy line may be long and exhausting, the time taken by pharmacists is to ensure the right medication is provided for you.

If you’re struggling to afford any of the medications you get from the pharmacy, then Prescription Hope can help you save money for any other drugs that we offer.  Contact us and visit the enrollment page to create an account. Fill out an application and let us save you money!



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