Can a Pharmacist Keep My Prescription? the Reasons, and What to Do

Posted September 13, 2019 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines

Having a prescription held by the pharmacist can often make a patient feel embarrassed, so it’s important to understand the reasons why this might happen. In this blog, we’re going to go into the reasons why a prescription might be held back and the implications for the patient.

First, the quick answer for you, then, because there’s more to it than you might think, we’ll dive into further details to help understand the reasons and actions you can take.

Here’s the quick answer;

Can A Pharmacist Keep My Prescription? It is legal and acceptable in all 50 states for a pharmacist or pharmacy to keep your prescription for reasons of suspicion. The pharmacist can keep the prescription until either a new one is issued to you, kept until it can be verified, or re-sent to the doctor for personal verification – before it is filled.

So, let’s take a look at the reasons why a Pharmacist might want to keep your prescription.

Why Does a Pharmacist Keep My Prescription

Prescription drug abuse is becoming a major threat in recent times, and because of this, pharmacists need to be more vigilant to safeguard themselves and their business. So, it helps to put yourself in a pharmacist’s shoes, it’s easier to understand there’s a genuine reason behind any decision they make. 


First, and the main reason is the consequences of something happening to the patient or the person taking the medication offered by the pharmacy, or the dangers that drugs are being re-sold.

In such a situation, the pharmacist could lose their pharmacy license completely, be fined, put in jail, or even all three. 

Of course, they’re not going to fill a prescription if you can’t afford your medication, but the pharmacist can also keep your prescription to protect the patients from different drug interactions or other risky associations. So, a pharmacist can reasonably keep your prescription and re-send it to a doctor explaining why it could not be filled or that something is doubted about the prescription.

Alternatively, the pharmacist may keep the prescription and inform relevant authorities on any suspicious reasons. A pharmacist can do this legally and is duty-bound to uphold such safe medical principles. Pharmacists also have a duty to inform the patient (or the customer) of any such action, and their reason(s) for doing so.

In essence, if you know of no reason why the prescription cannot be filled, then most of this will just be a formality and simply an exercise in procedures designed to safeguard both the pharmacy AND the patient.

As much as it may feel annoying or confusing when pharmacists confiscate your prescription, there are many ways you can avoid this. So, it’s important to know the instances that urge a pharmacist to keep your prescription and how to avoid them.

What Makes a Pharmacist Keep My Prescription and How to Avoid It

1) The Prescription Is Missing Important Information

There are many ways a pharmacist can receive prescriptions. They can be called over the phone, dropped off, or electronically sent and of course, can be sent directly from your doctor’s office.

Because of these various methods, there can be situations where the prescription is missing crucial information that may make it risky for the pharmacist to fill your prescription. It could also be depending on if your prescription is still valid.

This is because the pharmacy must be provided with the necessary information to fill your prescription, and there simply is no room for guesswork, assumptions, or error.

Examples include the strength of the medication, directions for use, prescription date, patient name and the doctor’s signature. If any important information is missing, the pharmacist may keep your prescription until it’s verified.

The law requires the pharmacist to contact your doctor’s office before filling your prescription. So, until the verification is confirmed the pharmacist may keep your prescription.

How to Avoid

When your doctor prescribes a medication, following your appointment, take some time to read it. Be sure to give it a quick look to check if all the information is there.

You can easily check for basic information like your name, doctor’s signature, date and other simple – non-technical information. If you have some education on medication and prescriptions, you can have a more detailed look at the medications prescribed.

If you can tell that some basic information is missing, get it cleared from the doctor before presenting it to the pharmacy. This will avoid running into issues at the pharmacy and result in the pharmacists keeping your prescription for verification. And here’s how your doctor knows if you’ve filled your prescription.

2) The Prescription Is Hard to Read or Confusing


Commonly, a doctor’s handwriting may not always be easy to read or clear. So, if the pharmacist is unable to read the prescription they can keep your prescription until they verify what’s written.

Often this is a life-saving decision, because of the risk of reading the prescription incorrectly and therefore providing the wrong drugs could ultimately result in someone suffering severe illness or even death. Wouldn’t you want to be sure?

Also, by law, the pharmacist is required to call the doctor’s office and confirm the information first because the pharmacist will be held responsible for filling the wrong drugs or doses. So, it’s common that the pharmacist may keep your prescription until it’s been verified before filling it for you.

How to Avoid

When you’re given a handwritten prescription check if it looks legible. Ask your pharmacist if you can get it rechecked if they refuse to give you your prescription until it’s verified.

Leave your number at the pharmacy so they can reach you once it’s verified. Leaving your number helps the pharmacist to alert you in case the prescription looks suspicious and let you know how you can deal with it.

3) The Prescription Looks Altered or Damaged

Pharmacists have a responsibility to make sure a prescription is valid before filling it. So, it’s not unusual for some prescriptions to raise questions or potentially raise suspicion.

Obvious signs like if the prescription has been taped back together, or the information on it appears to be scratched out or altered, are common forms of tampering that a pharmacist may want to know more about. They might well be innocent, but that’s almost irrelevant.

Moreover, if any information on the prescription related to the date, strength, quantity, or dosage look altered or out of the norm for general dispensing quantities or doses, then it’s common for a pharmacist to verify its validity – as part of their duty.

For this reason, again, they may keep your prescription until this can be verified by your doctor’s office, to avoid getting something wrong such as giving you too much of your medication.

Even if the alteration is from a doctor themselves, it could still make the pharmacist second guess the validity of your prescription and persuade them to verify the details. So, in these situations, they may keep the prescription until the verification is complete, which incidentally, isn’t always a fast process – unless it’s for urgent health reasons, in which case they may pick up the phone. 

How to Avoid

If the doctor fills a handwritten prescription during your appointment and you notice the doctor scratched out something or altered a drug or messed up when writing, simply request a new one.

You could even explain that it may be difficult to fill it at a pharmacy if it looks altered. This will prevent the pharmacy from questioning your prescription through a series of questions and keeping it for verification and wasting a huge amount of everyone’s time. 

So, be sure to make a small, quick check on your prescription when it’s written by the doctor and getting it corrected immediately can avoid you, your doctor, and the pharmacists a lot of trouble. 

Requesting the Prescription Back From the Pharmacist

It’s important to remember that in any of the above cases, the pharmacist can keep your prescription only if you want the prescription to be filled by that specific pharmacy. Likewise, if there is only one pharmacy that can offer it in your area, or if you don’t have any other choice, then the pharmacist can keep it for any verifications they need to make.


If the pharmacist keeps the prescription for verification before filling it, you can request it back saying you’ll get it filled in another pharmacy. In many situations depending on the state where the pharmacy is located, the pharmacists may give you back the prescription on your request.

But they can add detail to the prescription before returning it. The law in Virginia for example, instructs pharmacists to write a note on the back of the prescription stating the reasons for refusal to fill, along with the pharmacist’s name and phone number. And if you think the answer is just for the pharmacist to prescribe it instead, then here’s what your pharmacist can and can’t do.

The obvious reason for this is that any other pharmacies will then be made aware of what could be wrong with the prescription. This might alert them enough to also refuse to fill it. If you’re getting your prescription filled in a different state there may also be other implications.

To Conclude…

We hope this has been helpful. Most checks are because of some minor errors in the document or discrepancies on dosage, etc. Ultimately, if you have no reason to suspect anything about the prescription yourself, then there’s nothing to worry about. But a few cursory checks prior to leaving your doctor’s office could save a lot of time and irritation if the pharmacist holds back your much-needed drugs.

If you can’t fill your prescription because of the price, then Prescription Hope can help you save money on Novolog, Gabapentin or any other of the 1,500 medications that we offer. Visit our website here. If you’re having trouble affording any of the medications you’ve been prescribed, contact us, or visit the enrollment page to create an account and fill out an application to start saving today.