How to Get a Prescription Refilled Early? the Answers!

Posted January 27, 2020 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines
Prescription refilled early

The simple answer to getting a prescription refilled early often produces more questions than actual answers.

To start, can prescriptions be refilled early? If yes, then how many days before it’s due, and for which medications? These are among the common questions many patients have.

In fact, these are common questions pharmacists regularly hear for a variety of valid and invalid reasons. This article will give you a clear guide on all you need to know about refilling prescriptions early.

First, here’s the quick answer, then we’ll dive into more detail, answering all those other common questions.

How To Get A Prescription Refilled Early? To get a prescription filled early, these three situations are considered valid:

  • You’re about to travel or go on a vacation 
  • Your prescription is stolen, you lost the prescription, or dropped the medications
  • There is emergency weather reported

But these situations may be invalid for controlled drugs. Let’s look a bit more in-depth at what other exceptions there are and all the common questions, starting with the more thorough answer.

Can You Get a Prescription Refilled Early?

prescription refilled early

Yes, you can get a prescription refilled early, but it depends on certain factors. The main reason as to why some prescriptions are allowed to be refilled sooner is for protecting patients from non-adherence and taking medications incorrectly based on timing, frequency, duration, and even dosage.

According to CDC, around 3.8 billion prescriptions are issued annually, and one out of five of these prescriptions are left without refilling at the right time, causing improper dosage, frequency, and applied duration of medications. This can make the overall treatment ineffective. 

Non-adherence to medications is dangerous, and the world health organization continuously emphasizes the importance of medication adherence throughout the entire treatment for a successful treatment procedure.

Non-adherence to medications has accounted for 50% of treatment failures and has even caused 125,000 deaths every year in the USA.

So, because of these reasons, certain medications are allowed to be refilled early. Patients will not have to miss out or run out of medications, thus causing non-adherence, especially if medications are supposed to be taken routinely. 

But it’s important to remember the number of days before which one can refill a prescription is based on the number of “days supply” mentioned in the prescription.

For example, a prescription given for a 14-day supply can be refilled early as on the 12th or the 13th day. Again, the main reason to refill prescriptions early is to make sure one does not have to run out of medications.

But still, not all medications can be refilled early because of specific safety reasons.

Prescription Refilled early

Why Can’t You Get a Prescription Refilled Early for Some Medications?

The main reason some medication can rarely be refilled early is to prevent the abuse and misuse of drugs, primarily controlled substances.

If such controlled medications are not regulated, a patient can easily visit multiple pharmacies and ask for early refills to satisfy an addiction, or even to trade on the black market. It’s because of these reasons, one cannot get certain medications refilled early.

Even some insurance companies regulate the ability of a patient to get early refills for safety purposes. The insurance companies monitor such abilities to have early refills for different reasons.

For example, a person taking medications to manage diabetes may get an early refill through specific insurance coverage options, over a person who regularly takes narcotics to manage their pain.

However, most insurance companies have certain exception options that give patients the ability to have early prescription refills, provided that these options cover the accepted reasons why a patient may need a prescription filled early. 

Now that we’ve outlined the instances where early prescription refills are allowed or not allowed, it’s helpful to know how to get your prescription refilled early.

How to Get a Prescription Refilled Early?

prescription refilled early

If your prescription has expired, then the situation is different from this one. The ability to get a prescription refilled early, other than controlled substances, usually comes with only a handful of situations and circumstances.

Even if there are certain situations where you can get early refills without the need to explain much, such as cases where your pharmacist knows you well enough or understands your situation, very often, this can help in obtaining early refills for genuinely needed or valid reasons.

Below are a few more highly valid and accepted reasons that will allow you to get early refills without any trouble. 

Traveling or Planning a Vacation

You’re going away, and you’ll need a supply of your medication to cover you during the days you’re away.

Pharmacies and pharmacists understand this situation can occur when it comes to traveling, extended vacation, or even work travel. So, this is one of the ideal reasons you can use to get your prescriptions filled early.

But again, your pharmacist will have to call your prescription insurance provider and request whether it’s possible to give a “vacation override” (unless it’s not covered in the insurance policy) for allowing you to get early refills to take on your travels or vacation. 

If you’re paying by cash, you will have to explain the travel and vacation period and so on. Explaining the situation helps convince the pharmacists to accept the reason. A pharmacist can refuse to fill prescriptions. Once the explanation has been provided to the pharmacist and they’re happy to continue, then the pharmacist will check how many refills are remaining.

Depending on whether you have a refill remaining or not, you will get the prescription refilled.

Your Medication Has Been Stolen

This is only an option if you have a police report for the missing prescription that you can show your doctor or pharmacist. Or, if you lose or drop the medications. 

As humans, we face uncertainties. Patients may come across instances where they need an early refill not because their medications are finished, but because they either lost it or it got stolen.

In this case, if your prescription is covered by insurance, your pharmacists will call your insurance company and request a loss override to give you early refills.

But it’s important to remember that many insurance companies allow this type of loss override or the ability for you to get an early refill because of lost or stolen medications, only once or twice a year.

Alternatively, if you’re paying by cash, the obvious thing you have to do is explain how the medication was stolen or lost.

In the case of a lost medication, it’s ideal to support it with a police report so that the pharmacist can be assured by valid documentation. Again, you can get your prescription filled early for this reason or situation only if your medications are non-controlled.

There Is a Weather Emergency Expected

The weather report is issuing a severe warning, and you need to keep a ready supply of medication if you can’t make it to the pharmacy or if the pharmacy is closed. 

Weather situations are unpredictable. So, when there’s an expectation of a weather emergency, it’s a reasonable and valid situation to get your prescriptions refilled early. 

This is because when weather conditions are unpredictable, such as an expected hurricane, for example, patients will not be able to step out of the house for a few days. Pharmacies may even be closed for safety reasons.

In such a situation, patients will need to get an early refill to take their medication on days where you can’t step out, especially if medications are taken daily. So, weather emergencies are another quite reasonable occasion in which you can get your prescriptions refilled early.

However, in all situations, patients must have early planning and, if possible, documentation to present reasons properly.

In all situations of early refills, both pharmacists and doctors will have to be involved most of the time, especially if you have no relevant insurance coverage. That is, if your insurance coverage has a “travel exception” or “emergency exception,” your pharmacists can give you an early refill.

But if you pay by cash, you will most likely need an updated prescription from the doctor anyway. The doctor will have to specify the days of early refills allowed, for example, for a 60-day or 30-day supply.

While these are all possible only with non-controlled medications, for controlled substances, getting a prescription refilled early is only viable by talking to your prescribing physician about your specific medical situation or emergency.  

Now there’s also a way you can ask your pharmacist for early refills, especially if you’re refilling from different pharmacies or in a different state. This is because convincing pharmacists is often hard and for a good reason. And it can be worse if you get on the wrong side of the pharmacist. 

So, when you’re about to ask for an early refill use, it helps to approach the pharmacists using the following points.

Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist When You Want to Get an Early Refill

prescription refilled early

Firstly, it’s important to remember that not all pharmacists will be amiable to early refill requests. So, rather than starting with an explanation of why you need an early refill, start with clear-cut questions. The following may help.

  • Am I able to refill this prescription before I travel or before I go on a vacation?
  • Is it possible to refill this prescription early to keep an emergency supply at home, because there’s a weather emergency in the coming days or other relevant emergency reason?
  • Could I fill this prescription refill early because I lost it (or it got stolen)? (It’s highly recommended to provide the lost police report or any other updated doctor’s prescription along with the question).

Once you ask the question, follow up by asking if you need to provide any further information. This will make the pharmacists understand that you’re genuine, and you need an early refill. 

If the pharmacists seem to be okay without you needing to explain, you can always add a few words about the reason as to why, but don’t go overboard. 

However, if your pharmacist requires a full explanation, make sure you’re clear and direct rather than waffling. Your way of explanation is key to get a prescription refilled early, especially if the early refills have no insurance coverage, and you don’t have any police report (for stolen prescriptions) or updated doctors’ prescription (for lost medications). 

How Many Days Early Can I Refill a Prescription?

Prescription refills depend on the supplies specified by your doctor or physician. This supply is usually calculated by dividing the total quantity of medication prescribed by the number of times the medicines are taken daily.

For non-controlled medications, early refills are allowed at least two days before a 30 day supply. For example, refilling a 30 day supply is possible on the 28th day. 

But these refill dates can also depend on the prescription insurance coverage. For example, when it comes to routine medications like those for blood pressure or diabetes, they can be refilled five days before, which is as early as on the 25th day.

The same applies for refilling a 90-day prescription. You can get it refilled early before at least two days when it’s due to expire.

Since controlled medications cannot be refilled most of the time, the following will tell you how early you can get them refilled.

How Early Can You Refill Schedule III & IV Prescriptions? (Controlled Medications)

According to the federal regulations, controlled medications like Schedules III and IV can only be refilled early on an authorized prescription or usually as early as two days for a 30-day supply. State and local laws may vary slightly as to when you can refill Schedule 3 and 4 drugs. Check with your local pharmacy for the most accurate information. 

Also, it’s important to remember that controlled substances can only be refilled up to five times within six months from the date of issue.

So, every time the five refills are over, or if six months have passed from the issue date (whichever comes first), patients should get a new prescription. In such cases, if the prescription has expired, it’s not going to be possible to get refills for such controlled medications.

How Do I Get an Emergency Prescription Refill for Controlled Substances?

Emergency prescriptions are those that are offered for immediate and early use, at least earlier than that of the prescribed period. And where it may not be possible for the health care provider to provide a written prescription for that emergency.

However, getting such an emergency prescription refill is easier for non-controlled substances – see above.

In the case of a controlled substance, the healthcare provider will have to call a pharmacist requesting that they dispense the controlled medications. But the healthcare provider must provide a written and signed prescription to the pharmacy within seven days after the emergency prescription has been distributed.

However, when dispensing such early refills for emergency purposes, the quantity dispensed should be only for treating the patient for the specific emergency period.


We hope this has been useful. If you have any questions about how Prescription Hope can help you save money on any drugs that we offer, or if you’re having trouble affording any of the medications you’ve been prescribed, then contact us. Visit the enrollment page to create an account and fill out an application and let us save you money!