Can A Pharmacy Refuse To Fill A Prescription
The person who has a pharmacy in his home may be surprised to learn that pharmacists have some discretion over whether they will dispense a prescription. In fact, pharmacies are required by law to keep their doors open and to service all customers. However, there are circumstances under which a pharmacist can refuse to fill a valid/on-time prescription. These situations typically fall into one of three categories: (1) when the patient’s needs are not legitimate; (2) when it poses a danger to the patient; or (3) when the dosage is incorrect.
In the first situation, a pharmacist might refuse to fill a prescription for an item that is not needed. For example, a pharmacist cannot refuse to fill a prescription for aspirin because the customer claims he suffers from heart problems. Even though this is technically true, it is highly unlikely that someone would actually need aspirin for heart issues. In addition, a pharmacist must dispense every legitimate prescription order that comes through the door — even those that contain errors. If a pharmacy refused to fill prescriptions containing errors, it could potentially get sued for malpractice.
If you think about it, refusing to fill a prescription for an illegitimate reason also would seem unfair. People often go to a doctor or pharmacist only after trying several options themselves without success. The pharmacist should provide help and guidance instead of turning away patients who appear desperate enough to try anything to relieve pain and suffering.
Another situation where a pharmacist can refuse to fill a prescription happens when the patient is allergic to the medication. This is called “drug allergy” and is quite rare. According to the Food Drug Administration, drug allergies occur “in less than 1 percent of adults.” However, if a pharmacist knows of a potential problem with a particular medicine, he or she can legally refuse to fill a prescription. Most states require physicians to report certain conditions to the state board of medicines. Therefore, most states’ boards of medicine already know about these types of refusals.
Finally, a pharmacist can refuse to fill a prescription if the dosage is too high or if the patient refuses to take the medicine at the time prescribed. Some people believe that doctors prescribe medicine way too liberally. They want the patient to take more than what is necessary. Or perhaps the patient doesn’t like the taste of the medicine. If either of these reasons happened to cause a refusal, then the pharmacist can legally choose to do so. However, this practice is frowned upon by many medical professionals. It goes against everything we stand for regarding good health care practices.
As long as your pharmacist follows proper procedures and stays within the bounds set forth by federal laws and regulations, he or she has the right to decide whether to dispense your prescription. But don’t let the possibility of a refusal stop you from seeking treatment. You can always ask your pharmacist to explain why he or she chose to decline filling your prescription. And remember, if your pharmacist refuses to fill your prescription, check out your local laws before going elsewhere to see if any other pharmacies will fill it.
For additional information on refusals, read on to the next page.
Pharmacists can refuse to fill a prescription for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, many of them aren’t based on sound science. Many times, pharmacists base their decisions solely on patient complaints. If you’re having trouble getting a response from your physician, consider asking a nurse practitioner instead. Nurses usually work closely with pharmacists, so they’ll be able to answer many questions and offer advice. Also, nurses are trained to understand the meaning behind symptoms. They know how to use lab tests and x-rays to determine the underlying causes of ailments. Since most pharmacists receive little formal training beyond a few weeks worth of classroom lectures, they may not be as knowledgeable as nurses when dealing with complex cases.
You can find out whether your pharmacist has the legal authority to deny your request by checking your state’s laws. Laws vary from state to state. Ask your pharmacist to send you a copy of the relevant statutes. Once you’ve got a handle on the rules, you can make your own decision about whether to seek further assistance elsewhere.
Although pharmacists can refuse to fill prescriptions, the opposite isn’t necessarily true. Many patients pay cash for services rendered, but the pharmacist still must accept payment. The law requires that pharmacists charge patients for their services, but they can never force anyone to pay for something. That means if you walk into a store and say you’d like a refund because you didn’t buy anything, the merchant doesn’t have to give it to you. However, if a pharmacist refuses to fill a prescription because you don’t have insurance, you can always file a complaint with the state board of drugs. Your case will probably end up in front of an administrative hearing officer. Afterward, the pharmacy and its owner(s) will likely face fines and penalties ranging anywhere from $250 to $25,000 per violation, depending on the severity of the offense.
If you’re interested in learning more about refusals, look over the links on the following page.
Most states’ boards of medicine follow guidelines established by the Federal Drug Administration. When deciding whether to grant a dispensation, the FDA considers factors including:
the type of drug being sought
whether the drug was lawfully obtained
whether there are alternatives available
whether the patient is currently using the drug safely
whether the patient has been diagnosed with a disease related to the drug
whether the patient has been adequately informed of possible side effects
whether the patient understands the purpose of the drug
Whether a Dispensation Is Required
When a pharmacist denies a prescription, he or she must notify the patient of the denial. In most states, the notification form includes information explaining the patient’s rights regarding the denied prescription and possible appeals. States differ slightly in their requirements. Some states mandate that the pharmacist contact the patient directly while others allow the pharmacist to leave a message informing the patient of the denial.
Many states have a process whereby a pharmacist can appeal a denial. Generally speaking, the pharmacist must complete an appeal form and submit it to the appropriate licensing agency. Depending on the state, the appeal may result in a new ruling from the licensing agency, or it may simply reaffirm the original denial. Regardless of the outcome, the pharmacist must inform the patient of the final decision.
To learn more about refusals, visit the resource box below.
Appeals and Denials
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