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How Long Do Pharmacies Hold Prescriptions

by Dan Hughes
How Long Do Pharmacies Hold Prescriptions

How Long Do Pharmacies Hold Prescriptions

If you’re like me, when you go into a drugstore, you always want to get an item as soon as possible so you don’t have to keep standing in line. And while I know that there are some places (like hospitals) where waiting in line is unavoidable, sometimes we just want to hit the drive-through and be done with it. But what happens if you need to fill multiple prescriptions at once? The wait could turn into hours — even days! How do pharmacists handle this situation?
The answer varies depending on which state you live in, but generally speaking, pharmacies keep all your prescriptions together until you come back to pick them up. For example, in New York City, all prescriptions must remain in their original bottles for 72 hours after they’ve been filled, and then the pharmacist has the option of keeping them in his/her stock until you return to pick them up. In other states, such as Maryland, all prescriptions must stay in their original containers for 48 hours before they’re thrown away, but the pharmacist has discretion over whether he or she chooses to hang onto them [sources: Brown; New York].
In addition to these guidelines, each pharmacy is different. Some may require you to sign out any medications left in your possession within 24 hours, while others let you leave them behind without signing anything out. It’s important to find out how long your local pharmacy keeps prescriptions because this information can help you decide whether you really need to run right home to grab those pills.
Keep reading to learn about the average length of time between filling prescriptions and picking up medication.
Most people assume that when they leave their prescription with the pharmacist, it goes straight into the hands of one of the many private companies who distribute medications across America. This isn’t necessarily true. While it’s true that pharmaceutical manufacturers sell drugs through distributors, not every distributor sells directly to consumers. Instead, some pharmacies buy medications directly from manufacturers and then resell them to patients. These “community pharmacies” aren’t typically large chains, instead they tend to be small neighborhood businesses. They often offer more personalized service than big chain stores because you’ll probably interact with the same person each time you visit. Community pharmacies also usually charge less money than chain pharmacies because they pass along savings to customers.
Average Prescription Drug Holding Time
So how long does the average American wait to pick up their prescriptions? According to a study by the National Center for Health Statistics, the average amount of time between receiving a new prescription and having it filled was 11.2 days. That means that the majority of Americans waited an entire week before getting their newest meds. On average, men waited nine days longer than women did to pick up their prescriptions. Younger adults were also quicker to fill a prescription than older ones. Adults ages 18 to 39 picked up their newly prescribed medicine four days faster than those age 40 and above.
According to another survey conducted by Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit manager in the United States, the average prescription takes eight days to fill nationwide. About 60 percent of respondents said they had to wait five days or more to get their prescriptions filled.
These statistics don’t tell the whole story, though. A lot depends on individual pharmacies’ policies, and it’s hard to say exactly how long it should take for someone to pick up their prescription since each pharmacy handles orders differently. Some might only give you a day to pick up your medication, while others allow you to leave it behind without signing anything out. Also, it’s important to note that the average holding times listed above are based on surveys taken during 2011. Since medical needs vary from year to year, you should check to see how long your local pharmacy holds prescriptions specifically.
To reduce the number of expired medications in landfills, read on to discover why it’s important to take your prescriptions with you.
Many health insurance plans cover prescription costs, either partially or fully. However, if your plan doesn’t include coverage for prescriptions, you might consider shopping around for a better deal. You can also ask your doctor or pharmacist about discount programs offered by certain pharmacies. Many pharmacies participate in these programs, offering discounts on brand name and generic products — including mail order — due to bulk purchases.
Expired Medicine Recalls
When you think about it, it’s actually pretty dangerous to throw away used medications. Not only are they potentially contaminated, but they can also cause serious illnesses in both animals and humans. As a result, the U.S. government passed a law requiring manufacturers to notify the public when their products pose a threat to safety. This is called a recall notice.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, approximately 70 percent of all unused medicines are eventually flushed down toilets or otherwise disposed of. Most of these medications end up in our sewage systems, where they eventually seep into drinking water supplies. When ingested, these medications can cause life-threatening allergic reactions and liver damage. Even worse, drugs like Tylenol can kill dogs and cats if consumed accidentally. So next time you reach for a pill bottle, remember that throwing it away is unsafe and irresponsible.
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