Controlled Substance Refills
Several drugs are considered controlled substances, and refills on these prescriptions are strictly regulated, if they are even allowed to be prescribed at all. Schedule V drugs are the least restricted. Refills on these controlled substances can be obtained up to five times within six months of the date the original prescription was written. Schedule I drugs cannot be prescribed at all.
In the United States, a controlled substance is a drug or other substance that is restricted and controlled completely. This means that the manufacturing of the drug or substance, as well as its ownership, delivery, use, and disposal, are restricted by the government. A few common examples of controlled substances include morphine, marijuana, and cocaine.
Some controlled substances are available as prescription medications. Depending on several factors, a prescription for a controlled substance may or may not be allowed to be refilled.
Controlled Substance Refills and Schedules
Controlled substances are placed into five different categories, called Schedules. These Schedules are represented by the Roman numerals I, II, III, IV, and V. Schedule I drugs are the most restricted. Prescriptions cannot be written for Schedule I drugs, so they are not seen in pharmacies.
Schedule II, III, IV, and V drugs may be prescribed by a healthcare provider and dispensed from pharmacies. Schedule V drugs are the least restricted.
Schedule II medications cannot be refilled. Every prescription must be a new, "hard copy," original prescription. There is nothing preventing your healthcare provider from writing you a new prescription every month; this is not the same as refilling the medication. These new prescriptions (like all Schedule II prescriptions) cannot be faxed or phoned to a pharmacy.
Schedule III, IV, and V controlled substances can be refilled up to five times within six months of the date the prescription was issued. This means that your healthcare provider can write you one prescription with five additional refills. Your pharmacy can refill the prescription five times (in addition to the original fill) within six months.
After the refills are used up or the six months expires, whichever comes first, your healthcare provider will need to issue you a new prescription for the controlled substance. Your healthcare provider can phone or fax the new prescription to your pharmacy.
According to federal law, Schedule V controlled substances can be refilled as many times as authorized by the prescriber for up to one year. However, many states restrict Schedule V refills much as in the same manner as Schedule II or III medications (they may be refilled no more than five times in six months from the date of issue).
No matter what type of medication, if your healthcare provider gives you a prescription with no refills, then the prescription cannot be refilled without a new prescription. If your healthcare provider inadvertently tries to give you more refills than is allowed by law, these additional refills will not be honored by the pharmacy.
(It should be noted that this article describes the rules and regulations for controlled substance prescriptions in regular "retail" pharmacies. The rules for the use of these medications in hospitals, long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, or other such facilities are significantly different.)