Why Does It Take So Long To Fill My Prescription?

A pharmacist holding a tray of pills, surrounded by prescription drug bottles(BlackDoctor.org) — From the perspective of many patients dropping off prescriptions at a pharmacy, it seems like it would be an easy task for the pharmacist to quickly hand over the meds and allow the customer to be on their way.


Yes, this would be great. However, there are many processes, mostly unseen by the patient, that are in place that, unfortunately, often prevent prescriptions from being filled as quickly as we all would like.

In a perfect transaction, the patient already has a complete and updated profile at the pharmacy, the physician has written the prescription properly, the medication is in stock, and there are no problems with the patient’s insurance.

Unfortunately, there are many things that can happen along each of these steps to slow the prescription filling process.

Pharmacists Need To Verify All Information. The pharmacist’s top responsibility is to make sure that they do not harm the patient. So sometimes, it’s necessary to double check information to ensure that they’re providing the correct medication for the correct person. The pharmacist may need to contact the physician if a prescription is illegible or has a questionable dose.

Pharmacists Need To Make Sure The Meds Are Available. Sometimes medications are in short supply and the pharmacist must contact suppliers or other pharmacies to see when and if it they can be made available to the patient.

Pharmacists Need To Verify The Pill Bottle(s). After the prescription is actually filled, the pharmacist must then go back and double check the medication to make sure that what was written on the doctor’s prescription order matches the stock bottle and the pills that are in the patient’s bottle.

Pharmacists Need To Contact Insurance Companies. In the event that the patient’s insurance isn’t working properly, the pharmacist may also have to contact the company to see what the problem is.

Pharmacists Need To Help Multiple Patients/Physicians Simultaneously. In addition to all of this, pharmacists are also fielding phone calls from physicians and other patients in need of prescription help as well.

Pharmacists have to multitask for hours each day, but still must remain focused and calm to avoid any mistakes. While waiting a little longer may be inconvenient, it’s important to allow a bit of extra time to make sure that the pharmacist can exercise all of the checks and balances that goes into ensuring you get the right medication.

By Dr. Crystal Riley, BDO Pharmacy Expert

A graduate of the Howard University School of Pharmacy, Dr. Crystal A. Riley has spent the majority of her career involved in drug information services for not only healthcare organizations and practitioners, but for patients as well. While her career has shifted towards researching healthcare policy and quality standards, Dr. Riley still actively seeks opportunities to keep patients informed and aware of medication-related issues to help improve their overall quality of life.