How do I refill without you? I want to know.
October 9, 2009 6:20 PM   Subscribe

I had a prescription for zolpidem (Ambien), to be taken on an as-needed basis. I have taken all of them. Can I attempt to refill the prescription through my drugstore's website, requiring permission from the prescribing doctor, or would that be considered drug-seeking and weird and I need to actually go in for an appointment (or possibly just call) if I actually want to get a refill?

I do have fairly unpleasant social anxiety, which makes me incredibly reluctant to make an actual telephone call to my PCP unless this is a really standard situation that everyone is accustomed to which would follow a predictable script, in which case I can handle with a little bit of preparation. I honestly don't know how this sort of situation is handled; thus, the confusion. If I had thought of it, I would have asked when said PCP wrote me a new zopidem script, but naturally, I didn't!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you took these pills in a reasonable time period and did not do it in the miniumum amount of time possible, call your PCP. Tell the nurse. The nurse will likely ask what pharmacy you use and a phone number and have the doctor call it in.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:25 PM on October 9, 2009

I refill my Ambien online no problem - I didn't even see my doc when she prescribed it - she did it over email! Totally legit HMO. YMMV.
posted by tristeza at 6:25 PM on October 9, 2009

Trying to refill an expired prescription for a commonly abused and/or resold medication might well raise an eyebrow with a pharmacist. Call your doctor's office and see if they'll call in another prescription.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:26 PM on October 9, 2009

Sidhedevil: "Trying to refill an expired prescription for a commonly abused and/or resold medication might well raise an eyebrow with a pharmacist. Call your doctor's office and see if they'll call in another prescription."

Really? Any time I need a refill if I do it online, I get an e-mail that says "your prescription was out of refills, we'll contact the doctor for you and get an authorization." Sometimes the doctor's office even calls to tell me they got the request from the pharmacy and called in the refill order so that I can go ahead and pick it up. Of course these are medications I'm on long-term.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:30 PM on October 9, 2009

If the scrip says "x refills before y date" then I'd just go via the automated route. If the prescription has expired, I would call the doc and have them phone in a refill.
posted by zippy at 6:30 PM on October 9, 2009

Check the label on the prescription bottle.

If it says "X refills by MM/DD/YY", then call the pharmacy that filled it and order a refill. Depending on the pharmacy, you may not need to talk to anyone, but you *will* need to have the bottle in front of you.

If it says "No refills", or you're past the date, you'll need to call the doctor. Many offices will have a messaging system for writing new prescriptions, and you may not even have to talk to a person (I do this on a monthly basis for SonR's ADD meds). They may be able to call the prescription renewal into the pharmacy, or you may need to stop by the office and pick up the actual paper prescription. If you actually need to go in and see the doctor, they will call you back and say so.

If you have a paper prescription, you'll have to take that into the pharmacy so they can fill it.

It is bog-standard to call the doc for refills/renewals on as-needed or long-term meds. However, if the doc feels that you have gone through the bottle too quickly, s/he will want to see you, and perhaps change the dosing.
posted by jlkr at 6:34 PM on October 9, 2009

Did the script have refills on it in the first place, and you're just out of refills? Or was it a one-shot deal? If it was a one-shot deal, you should probably call the doctor's office directly. You should ask to talk to the nurse on duty about a prescription refill. When the nurse gets on the line, tell him the name of the drug, the dose prescribed, and the name of your pharmacy. This should be fairly standard and I don't think any eyebrows will be raised. The nurse may tell you that he needs to talk to the doctor before calling in your script -- don't get nervous if this happens. You shouldn't have to go in for an appointment for this to occur unless the doctor needs to talk about your use of the drug.

One problem that I foresee with the online refill plan is if your doctor doesn't get back to the pharmacy. This happens to me frequently, but YMMV, it depends on the doctor. When my refills run out, I have to call the doctor to have them refilled. I leave a message with my full name, social security number, dosage and quantity of the drug I need refilled, and my pharmacy's name and phone number. I was instructed to follow these procedures (I don't expect you needing to give your social, but my doctor's office is gigantic and they don't have time to figure out who I am) but this should give you an idea of what to expect on the telephone. The thing with the online refill is that it's sort of mysterious -- if the doctor doesn't respond and call in a refill, that might heighten your anxiety about the process, because why did that happen? Could be that she was too busy, could be because she doesn't want to prescribe you more of the medication, it could be that the request was not sent to her properly -- if you call, you'll have more information and will know what is happening every step of the way.

I don't think it would be strange (especially if you used a reasonable amount in a reasonable amount of time as JohnnyGunn noted above) and it's probably worth it to try zapping the request to the pharmacy on their online refill page if you don't think that the possibility that the process could be stalled or mysterious will cause you woe. However, if you can stomach calling the doctor's office, I would do that -- you might end up having to do it anyway.
posted by k8lin at 6:41 PM on October 9, 2009

Just call the pharmacy. If they can't call in a refill, they'll tell you. Ambien isn't going to raise the same sort of flags as if you were trying to refill Oxycotin. It's no big deal, nobody is going to think your an addict.
posted by Peecabu at 6:44 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

There's an excellent chance that if you call your PCP after hours, there will be a recording to tell you when and how to call for refills.

Calling during office hours is totally scriptable though. Have your bottle in front of you. Have the phone number for the pharmacy in front of you.

Office: (Answers)

You: Hello, I'm Dr. X's patient, and I need to call in a refill, please.

Office: Will either:
*take your name, and the name of the medication and your pharmacy #,
*or will transfer you to a refill line to give that information,
*or will tell you you need to come in to make an appointment.

There are variables, but one of these will happen, and you can prepare for each. It's just a matter of knowing the name of your medication, and a phone number for your pharmacy. If they say it needs an appointment to refill, then you can just make an appointment.
posted by headspace at 6:52 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

tl;dr If it's refillable it's refillable. If it's a controlled drug, it may not be refillable without a fresh scrip from the doctor. May vary by state. If it's refillable, call it in or visit the pharmacy or whatever they require. Don't worry about anyone's raised eyebrows.
posted by JimN2TAW at 6:53 PM on October 9, 2009

If it says "No refills", or you're past the date, you'll need to call the doctor.

Again, not necessarily - I do ALL of this online with my HMO pharmacy, and OP might have a similar set up (who knows). I pretty much never have to call them for anything, email or the website works for most transactions.
posted by tristeza at 6:54 PM on October 9, 2009

A couple years ago I was prescribed Lunesta, which I took for several months. I always used the pharmacy web site to do the refills. If there were no refills left on the prescription, the pharmacy would contact the doctor to authorize more. I don't see why your situation would be different. I am no longer taking it, but I use the same procedure for my other prescriptions.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:01 PM on October 9, 2009

Maybe this is just my pharmacy, but if you try to hit "refill" when you don't have any refills left, they call you and ask you what's up--they don't automatically call the doctor for you.

So that would make two calls you had to do (one with the pharmacy, one with the doctor), so I don't see how that would help.

The "raised eyebrows" thing might just be my pharmacy, though. Because some of the pharmacists there are kind of jerky at times, and I have gotten a giant hassle about Xanax prescriptions from them (the 30 of the lowest-dose Xanax I buy every six months, that is, because my doc says to replace the 29 I didn't take) so my thought was that Ambien might be the same.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:05 PM on October 9, 2009

Just a data point but it seems like Ambien is pretty low on the "drug seekers" list from my experience. Everyone I've talked to that's asked about it has gotten it without even batting an eye. I don't think the doctor's going to think your an addict.
posted by Octoparrot at 8:08 PM on October 9, 2009

It's pretty normal to ask via the pharmacy to get refills. In my experience they have to call the doctor anyway, who has to look up your info and then call them back. That means it usually takes longer that way. It's faster just to call your PCP directly and have them fax or call the pharmacy.
posted by chairface at 8:11 PM on October 9, 2009

Check with your doctor's practice -- my doctor's office has a sign up in the lobby suggesting that patients request refills through the pharmacy, so it may be even more than normal for you to proceed this way.
posted by amtho at 8:18 PM on October 9, 2009

I am a pharmacist. Ambien is not usually one of those "suspicious" drugs. Just call the pharmacy; if you're out of refills, they will fax your doctor to request a new prescription. This process usually takes a day or two because doctors offices do not respond that quickly. This is important to keep in mind, please do not harass the pharmacy if your refill is not ready yet.

To expedite the process, call your doctor's office yourself to obtain refills IN ADDITION to your pharmacy calling the doctor. Sometimes they respond to patient requests more quickly than pharmacy requests, especially if you need it to get to sleep tonight.

In both cases, I agree with headspace above. Have all your info handy!
posted by watch out for turtles at 7:28 AM on October 10, 2009

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