Will the Pharmacy Fill a Torn Prescription? a Helpful Guide

Posted October 23, 2019 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines

It’s annoying when something happens to your prescription, here’s an overview of why it’s hard to get a damaged or torn prescription filled, plus some advice and some do’s and don’ts to getting it right.

First, the quick answer, then we’ll dive into some further detail.

Will Pharmacy Fill A Torn Prescription? A pharmacy has a legal right to refuse to fill a torn or damaged prescription. A pharmacy is given this legal capacity since prescription abuse, misuse of drugs and even fake prescriptions have been rapidly increasing. So, by refusing to fill a torn prescription, a pharmacy doesn’t breach national law. 

torn prescription

The United States is experiencing a rapid increase in deaths due to prescription drug overdoses. With this escalating situation, the primary responsibility to regulate and insert control measures have been incorporated into the country. 

State laws introduced have succeeded in preventing numerous deaths, illnesses, and injuries, with demonstrable benefits, but the effectiveness and safety measures relating to prescription drug abuse and similar traits have less information on the validity of prescriptions that may have been torn.

Recently, in partnership with CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, PHLP has provided a statement summarizing some of the legal strategies that the states have been using to prevent drug misuse, prescription abuse, and overdoses.

This is one of the main reasons why pharmacies have been given all the legal ability to refuse to fill a torn prescription.

Apart from this legal reasoning, there are plenty of reasons and risks behind why a pharmacy refuses to fill a torn prescription. As much as it may sound inconvenient to anyone trying to fill a torn prescription, it’s the responsibility of a pharmacy to prevent misuse of prescriptions and related legal risks.

So, to give you a more thorough understanding of this, let’s get into some details. 

The Effect of Torn Prescriptions and What Patients Do 

torn prescription

According to research in Toronto, Canada, more than four million Canadians lose, tear, or damage their prescriptions each year. These incidents result in patients return trips to doctor’s offices, or they’re left as prescriptions that are unfilled. If you’re in this situation check how long your prescription is valid for.

The return trips to doctors’ offices incur further costs to patients in terms of loss of productivity, extra travel, and travel expenses, which may not be recommended for some patients and overall time consumed in trying to fill prescriptions.

This could also lead to adverse health effects where the medications may not be taken by the time due by the patient.

The study states that nearly 40 percent of Canadians who either tore, damaged or lost their prescriptions returned to the doctor’s office to get their prescriptions replaced.

This has reported a $35 million loss of productivity, travel and other related costs. The worst part of the effect of torn and related prescriptions is that around 700,000 Canadians decide to do nothing but to go on without medications.

And for those unaware, according to the World Health Organization report, non-adherence can lead to adverse health events, which may account for five percent of Canadian hospital admissions and five percent of physician visits.

Such health events as a result of non-adherence to medication report an additional $4 billion in health costs annually.

Torn Prescriptions Cost the USA More

With the study covering Canada alone, when estimating the effect of such torn and related prescriptions throughout the USA, the intensity of health events could be far higher.

So, what’s important to first identify is the reasons that make pharmacies refuse torn or damaged prescriptions. It’s true that as humans we all make mistakes and prescriptions may accidentally tear for a whole host of reasons.

However, understanding the perspective as to why the pharmacies refuse to fill such prescriptions may give greater importance on why we should all take more care when handling prescriptions. 

Why Accurate Prescriptions Are Important

Although there can be several legal reasons why pharmacies refuse to fill torn prescriptions. As customers, there are two main reasons we can define as to why exactly pharmacies don’t fill affected prescriptions. 

1. Information on Prescriptions Is Crucial

As information is always the key, to fill a prescription the pharmacies need certain information which includes the actual medication to be dispensed, the quantity, directions for use, the strength, dose and most importantly your details – along with a doctor’s signature.

If a prescription is ripped, and this information looks unclear – or least only partially visible, it’s extremely risky for a pharmacist to fill it, regardless of the intensity of the drug.

If any vital information is missing, then by law your pharmacist should contact your doctor for verification before filling the prescription.

In some countries, they have standards around the minimum information that should be specified in a prescription …along with a person who is entitled to both write it and to be able to fill it.

However, in the majority of cases in the U.S., a pharmacist will likely not have a doctor’s background and training. The pharmacist may have a medical background based around paramedic, medical assistant, or even a midwife or nurse. But regardless, they are not your doctor and as such cannot make judgments or assumptions on your behalf.

In such a context, if a torn prescription doesn’t display or meet these minimum requirements the pharmacists may not be confident or even be comfortable filling it – and the prospects of facing legal consequences that may have to be investigated afterward.

This is because if a drug has been mistakenly filled or if a fake prescription is filled, through a torn prescription, the pharmacist can be fined or jailed and even the license of the pharmacy can be lost.

2. Prescriptions Can Be Confused or Misinterpreted

Handwritten prescriptions issued by doctors can often appear to others to be confusing and illegible. In this situation, if a prescription is torn, it makes the readability of the prescription even worse, thereby making it difficult for the pharmacists to possibly even figure out the name of the drugs.

torn prescription

So, when a pharmacist assumes what may be written in the torn prescription and fills it for you, again the risks are too high. 

We cannot stress enough that if a pharmacist fills the wrong drug, and as a result causes life-threatening health issues, the pharmacists have to bear ultimate responsibility. However, even in this case, when a prescription is not clear, then by law the pharmacists still have a duty to verify it from the doctor before filling it. For some further help, here’s what a Pharmacist can prescribe.

While these reasons may sound less convincing for those in the situation of needing a prescription filling quickly, there’s real and potentially life-saving importance around the accuracy of the information on a prescription.

As an example; where a doctor prescribes Amoxil tablets (amoxicillin), which due to prescription discrepancies is misinterpreted by the pharmacist. The pharmacist may interpret the remaining information on the prescription to mean Daonil (glibenclamide) instead of Amoxil tablets (amoxicillin). As a result of taking the drug, the patient could suffer permanent brain damage. This has actually been known to happen.

In this case, it was concluded by saying the doctor breached his duty of care, by failing to write the prescription clearly and, of being negligent, which contributed to the negligence of the pharmacist.

However, the court also concluded the greater proportion of the responsibility (75%) lay with the pharmacist because of their negligence in verifying the information on the prescription when in truth, it wasn’t deemed as being clear.

So, now we understand the importance and can hopefully empathize with a pharmacist faced with a less-than-accurate prescription. Let’s look at what steps you can take regarding your damaged or torn prescriptions…

What Can You Do About a Torn Prescription 

1. Handle Your Prescription With Care

The first and most obvious thing you can do is make sure you’re handling the prescription with care, in a way any important document should be handled. Make sure the prescription is within a secured space so it cannot be easily torn or damaged. Make sure you’re not handling it roughly and that it has no chance of getting wet or stained. 

2. Do Not Try to Repair It

It’s better to tell the pharmacist if it’s torn rather than trying to tape it together, which may make it look like the prescription has been tampered with. If your prescription is anyway torn, check if the pharmacy is willing to fill it. This will also let the pharmacist know you’re being honest and not trying to fake it.

3. Ask The Pharmacist For Advice

By luck, if the pharmacist can find and read the essential information, then your prescription may be filled. If the pharmacist suspects the information is damaged, ask them to verify the information by contacting the doctor’s office – if they have the time.

4. Seek a Replacement Prescription

As a last resort, if nothing else works, you will have to replace the prescription by contacting your doctor.

So Finally…

We hope this guide on what to do about a torn or damaged prescription was useful. If you have any questions about how Prescription Hope can help you save money on Lantus Solostar or any of the other 1,500 medications that we offer, or if you’re having trouble affording any of the medications you’ve been prescribed, then contact us, or visit the enrollment page to create an account and fill out an application, and let us save you money!