Understanding a Prescription Label

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How can I figure out if I will need Dr. Forster to write a prescription for me?
Don’t refills happen automatically? I set them to refill automatically on Walgreens..
Why does Dr. Forster say I have a prescription approved when the pharmacist says I don’t have any refills?

Prescription labels contain a great deal of information, but navigating the intricacies of prescriptions and the interface between your pharmacy and your doctor can sometimes seems like trying to find your way through a hall of mirrors.

Every prescription should have a label that looks something like this sample label. The information may not always be formatted in the same way, and some labels may put the date filled in a different location, but these key fields should always be visible…

  1. Rx # is a number that the pharmacy gives to each prescription they receive. Think of it as a transaction number.
  2. Filled: shows the date that the pharmacy put the pills in the bottle.
  3. Refills: is the number of refills that the doctor wrote for when the original prescription was written.
  4. Qty: is how many pills are in the bottle. It can help you figure out if the prescription was for 30 days or 90 days.

Prescriptions Numbers Unlock the Pharmacy System

One key concept is understanding how your pharmacy stores prescriptions. Prescriptions are not filed by medication, or medication dose, they are filed by number. Imagine you had a bank account that worked the same way. Each deposit would be stored in a separate container. If you withdrew all the money from that deposit you would not be told that you had plenty of money from a previous deposit unless you asked. That is how pharmacies work. So, when you ask your pharmacist whether your prescription has a refill the pharmacist will tell you there are no more refills if that prescription number has no refills, even if your doctor wrote a prescription a month later for the same medication with many refills remaining. You have to specifically ask if there are any other prescriptions for the same medication that still have refills. This is why downloading your pharmacy’s app can be helpful. That app will easily allow you to check if there are other prescriptions that have refills.

Filled Date is the Date that Bottle Was Filled

You can’t understand the Refills field without knowing the Filled Date. Every time you fill a prescription it will show one fewer refill and your Filled Date will get updated. When combining pills into one bottle, always put the pills into the newer bottle, the one with the most recent Filled Date or you won’t be able to figure out how many refills you have right now.

Refills May Mislead

This bottle shows 7 refills, but that number can be misleading if you don’t have the most recent bottle, or if there are other prescriptions for the medication that have additional refills, or if the prescription is for more than a 30 day supply of medication and you are assuming 7 refills means 7 months of medication.

Quantity Shows You How Many Days Supply

If you know how many doses per day you are supposed to take you can divide the Qty by the number of doses per day and that will tell you how many days supply this prescription was written for. This prescription is for 1 pill in the morning and 2 at night = 3 pills per day so Qty #90 means it was for a one month supply.