Fact Checked

How to Transfer a Prescription

Thinking about transferring a prescription drug to a new pharmacy can be daunting. It seems like there are so many different steps to transfer prescriptions, and it feels like it is more trouble than it is worth. However, transferring a prescription doesn’t have to be complicated. Whether you’ve moved to a new area and want to switch to a pharmacy closer to your house or you’ve comparison shopped using USA Rx and found a cheaper price for your prescription at a different location, transferring your prescription can actually save you time and money in the long term. Here’s how to transfer a prescription.

Step 1: Find a New Pharmacy

Before you start looking for a new pharmacy, think about what qualities you would like the new pharmacy to have. You might be wondering what “qualities” a pharmacy could possibly have that would be important. After all, convenience is king, right? Well, if you’re moving to a new area, it would make sense to look for a pharmacy that is close to your new home. Maybe you prefer to pick up your prescriptions closer to your office, or perhaps you are looking for a pharmacy that is willing to deliver your medications to you because you prefer the convenience or have difficulty finding transportation. For some people, location is the number one priority when it comes to selecting a pharmacy, but other factors can also come into play. For example, if you are comparison shopping using USA Rx, choosing the pharmacy with the lowest cost for your medication might be a high priority. Some people choose to fill all of their prescriptions at one pharmacy, while others prefer to use several pharmacies to ensure that they are receiving the lowest price on each medication, particularly if they have a lot of prescriptions. Still, others like to shop at one particular pharmacy chain, such as CVS or Walgreens, while other people prefer to support small mom-and-pop pharmacies in their communities. Additionally, some patients may need to switch pharmacies to find one that is willing to compound a medication, meaning the medication is prepared in a strength and dosage that is exactly right for you. These pharmacies are growing in popularity but are not commonplace yet, so finding one can require some research. Finally, some pharmacies may have a more difficult time than others in obtaining certain prescriptions, requiring patients to use multiple pharmacies to obtain their medications. Finding a new pharmacy will depend on which of these factors is most important to you.

Step 2: Contact the New Pharmacy

The next step in transferring a prescription is to contact the new pharmacy or pharmacies that you chose in step one. Each pharmacy has a slightly different procedure for transferring prescriptions, but in general, you will need to provide them with some basic information. Prior to contacting the new pharmacy, make sure that you have the name, strength, dosage and prescription number for each of your existing prescriptions, as well as the phone number and name of the pharmacy from which you are transferring your medications. If you are taking a medication for a short term illness or infection, such as antibiotics for bronchitis or an antifungal cream for a skin infection, these prescriptions likely do not have any refills and do not need to be transferred. Make sure that you check the prescription label for the dosing instructions and the number of refills, and if you have any questions, call your healthcare provider. When providing contact information for your old pharmacy, remember that it is important that you provide the number for the pharmacy itself, as some pharmacies are located inside grocery stores, like Kroger, or big box stores, like Walmart, and providing the contact number for the grocery store or customer service center at Walmart won’t be helpful. You may also need to provide the contact information for your prescribing physician for each medication. Some pharmacies offer the option to provide this information online via their website or mobile app, but you can also call the pharmacy or visit the store in person. Make sure that you write down the name of the pharmacy staff member you spoke to in case there are any issues with the transfer. After providing your basic information, the new pharmacy will contact your previous pharmacy to begin the transfer process. 

Step 3: Gather Your Personal Information

In addition to the basic information needed in step two to initiate the transfer process, your new pharmacy will also need you to provide some personal contact and medical information in order to enter you into their system. If you were able to transfer your prescription online using the pharmacy website or mobile app, you will likely also be able to enter your personal information online. In general, your new pharmacy will need to know the following information:

  • Your first and last name
  • Your address
  • Your phone number
  • Your date of birth
  • Any allergies that you may have, especially allergies to medications and foods
  • Your health insurance information, including your ID number, group number, and RX bin number, if applicable

Step 4: Transfer Your Coupons

Some drug manufacturers offer savings and rebate programs for brand name medications that are extremely expensive or not covered by insurance. Examples include many different types of blood thinners, such as Eliquis and Xarelto, and life-saving drugs like EpiPens or epinephrine injections. If you participate in a savings program or have a coupon for a reduced copay that is applied to one or several of your medications, you must inform the new pharmacy. Sometimes, it is possible for the old pharmacy to provide the savings program and reduced copay information to the new pharmacy over the phone, but you may also be required to get a new savings card and present it to your new pharmacy. This is often the most complicated part of transferring a prescription to a new pharmacy, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time for this step. It is recommended that you begin the transfer process shortly after filling your prescriptions so that if it takes some additional time to transfer your savings and rebate programs, you aren’t left scrambling to come up with the cash to pay for your prescription.

Step 5: Handle the Exceptions

There’s an exception to every rule, and prescription transfers are no different. Due to federal regulations surrounding certain medications, some prescriptions cannot be transferred or have a limited number of transfers. Prescriptions that cannot be transferred or may have a transfer limit include:

  • Prescriptions that are out of refills. If your prescription is out of refills, it cannot be transferred to the new pharmacy. Your new pharmacist may be willing to contact your healthcare provider to request a new prescription, but not all pharmacies offer this service.  Additionally, your doctor may need you to come back to the office for blood work or a follow-up to determine if you still need the medication. In this situation, your new pharmacy would not be able to help you get a refill. Make sure you check your prescription bottles to see if there are any prescriptions that do not have refills left and have a plan in place to get your medication refilled, if needed, prior to your transfer.
  • Prescriptions with limited transfers: Medications that are classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as Schedule III, Schedule IV, or Schedule V medications are considered controlled substances and can only be transferred to a new pharmacy once, even if you have numerous refills remaining. If you switch pharmacies for a second time, your doctor will need to write you a new prescription for these medications. Examples of prescriptions with limited transfers include Ambien (zolpidem), Ativan (lorazepam), Ultram (tramadol), and Valium (diazepam).
  • Prescriptions that cannot be transferred: Medications that are classified by the DEA as Schedule II controlled substances cannot be transferred between pharmacies. Due to the highly addictive nature of these medications, they are also not eligible for refills, so you will need to receive a new prescription from your doctor each time you need to fill your prescription. Examples of Schedule II controlled substances include Adderall (amphetamine salt combo), Dilaudid (hydromorphone), fentanyl, and OxyContin (oxycodone). 
  • It is recommended that you examine the list of controlled substances or check with your doctor to see if any of your medications are controlled substances prior to trying to transfer them. If you have no refills remaining on your prescription, you may need to allow ample time to schedule an appointment with your healthcare professional in order to get your prescription refilled and any necessary testing done. If you have already transferred your Schedule III, Schedule IV, or Schedule V substances once, you will also need to allow time to get a new prescription before refilling them. Doctor’s appointments aren’t always available on-demand, so make sure you plan accordingly.

Step 6: Wait for the Transfer

Even in the age of the internet, nothing happens overnight, and your pharmacists want to make sure they are handling your transfer correctly. Expect to wait between one and three days for your transfer to be completed, depending on how many prescriptions you have to be transferred. Again, make sure to give yourself plenty of time for the process to be completed before you try to order refills; it is usually best to initiate the transfer right after refilling your prescription. Make sure that you leave a phone number for the pharmacy to use to contact you if there are any issues associated with your transfer so that you can be notified right away. 

Step 7: Pick Up Your Prescriptions

Hopefully, your transfer process has gone smoothly and now you’re ready to pick up your prescriptions! Head to your new pharmacy with your health insurance card and coupons, including your USA Rx pharmacy discount card. While you may have been able to provide this information over the phone or via the mobile app or website for the pharmacy, it’s always best to be prepared to present them just in case the information did not get saved or did not fully transfer. If you are unsure about how much your prescriptions will cost, try looking up the prices online before you visit the pharmacy using USA Rx’s medication finder tool.

Step 8: Build a Relationship

After transferring your prescriptions to a new pharmacy, it is time to start building a relationship with your new pharmacist. This is especially important for patients who take multiple prescriptions, but everyone can benefit from a close relationship with their pharmacist. Make sure you tell your pharmacist about any over-the-counter drugs you may take in addition to the medications you are prescribed, as well as any vitamins, supplements, or herbs that you use. Many people don’t realize that their over the counter medications and supplements could be interacting with their prescription medications, causing them to be less effective or even dangerous. Your pharmacist is the most knowledgeable resource you have when it comes to how different medications and supplements impact each other, so make sure you are open and honest about your medication use.

Step 9: Inform Your Healthcare Providers

Each time you go to the doctor after transferring your prescriptions, especially if you have more than one healthcare provider that prescribes medication for you, make sure that you tell them the name, address, and phone number of your new pharmacy. If you live in an urban or suburban area that may have several pharmacies by the same name on the same street (such as three Walgreens pharmacies on Main Street), having the address is particularly important. Your healthcare providers will need the contact information for your new pharmacy in order to submit refills or new prescriptions. It is worth double and triple-checking to make sure they have the correct information because there is nothing more frustrating than transferring all of your prescriptions over to a new pharmacy only to have your doctor send a prescription back to the old one accidentally because they didn’t have your updated information. 

Published July 2nd, 2020 by Bridget Reed
Fact Checked by Chris Riley

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