What To Do If Your Pharmacy Is Out Of Your Medication

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses what to do if your pharmacy is out of your prescription medication.


If your pharmacy is out of a medication that has serious side effects when withdrawn abruptly, would you inform the customer about the possible side effects and/or advise them of what they should do? After they've came 3 days on a row for their refill? I'm just curious if that would be the expectations.

Asked by Beth On Jul 05, 2018

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By PharmacistAnswers Staff

On Jul 05, 2018

Woman With PharmacistIf your pharmacy is out of your prescription medication, they should (and hopefully will) assist you in either finding an alternative location to fill your prescription or offer to contact your doctor for appropriate replacements. Below, we discuss a few of these situations.

Pharmacy Is Out Of The Full Quantity

If you pharmacy does not have enough of your medication to fill the full quantity (e.g. they only have 65 tablets and your prescriptions calls for 90), it is a fairly standard practice to fill a 2 to 3 day supply at no charge to hold you over until the rest of the medication comes in. Many pharmacies receive shipments of medication from their wholesaler every day, while it may take 2 to 3 days for others. Nevertheless, if the pharmacy has a least some of what you need, they should be able to fill a partial supply for you (there are exceptions however for controlled substances).

Pharmacy Is Completely Out Of Your Medication

It is important to find out exactly why your pharmacy is out of your medication. For example:

  • Is there a nationwide shortage and backorder?
  • Does the pharmacy wholesaler not carry your medication anymore?
  • Is there a specific brand you require that is no longer made?
  • Is just your specific location out of the medication? Do other pharmacies in the area carry it?
  • Was there a recall?

What you should do depends on the reason for the out of stock situation. If your pharmacy is just out of the medication, they should try and direct you to another location that could potentially have it (if they cannot order it quickly enough). If they are a chain store (e.g. Walgreens), they may be able to access the inventory of near-by stores to look for your medication. Some pharmacies may be able to call around the local area for you.

If there is a nationwide shortage of your medication and it cannot be reasonably attained anywhere, you should have a discussion with the pharmacist regarding your options. They may be able to call your doctor to discuss an alternative medication for the short-term.

What Should The Pharmacy Do?

In an out of stock situation, the pharmacy/pharmacist should be able to give you a clear reason as to why they don't have your medication and resolutions to the situation. These include:

  • Placing an order for the medication.
  • Directing you to alternative locations that may carry the medication (within the same chain or elsewhere).
  • Going over alternative medication options if your medicine cannot be procured, for whatever reason. They may be able to call your doctor and discuss appropriate alternatives.

Professionally, the pharmacist has a responsibility to the patient to help them with their medication needs. They should be able to discuss your situation with you and how to best handle it. This includes discussing the potential effects of missing doses. Ideally though, it won't come to this as they should be able to help you find your medication elsewhere, or at the very least, discuss alternative medication options with the doctor to continue your therapy, at least for the short-term.

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger Pharm.D

Dr. Brian Staiger is a licensed pharmacist in New York State and the founder of PharmacistAnswers.com. He graduated from the University At Buffalo with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2010. He has been featured in numerous publications including the Huffington Post as well as a variety of health and pharmacy-related blogs. Please feel free to reach out to him directly if you have any inquiries or want to connect! He's answered thousands of medication and pharmacy-related questions and he's ready to answer yours! Brian.Staiger@PharmacistAnswers.com Office: 716-389-3076

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