Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Good and bad news about prescription refills on the road

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

pills-745Not long ago, we ran a video tip showing how easy it is to get drug prescription refills while traveling. The upshot of the video was to simply carry your pill bottles with you, and when you get close, take them to a pharmacy wherever you are, and ask the local pharmacist to have the prescription transferred to that pharmacy.

One of our alert readers pointed out this could be a problem for Americans traveling in Canada – that Canadian pharmacies can only fill prescriptions written by Canadian docs, and that the reverse is also true – prescriptions written by Canadian doctors can’t be filled in the United States.

Yet another alert reader, Joel Lefkowitz cautions that while that advice may be true in some places, it ain’t necessarily so across the board. Joel knows of what he speaks – he’s a retired pharmacist from the Sunshine State of Florida. Well, it all got us to thinking, there must be more to the picture. And it’s true.

We propounded this question to authorities in several states popular to snowbirds, and here’s the answers we received:

Florida writes, “[Florida] law allows the pharmacist to fill a prescription from Canada only if the pharmacist determines that the physician writing the prescription is appropriately licensed in Canada and the pharmacist determines in the exercise of her or his professional judgment, that the order is valid and necessary for the treatment of a chronic or recurrent illness.”

Both Texas and Arizona state officials gave us a similar response, a prescription written by a Canadian physician would generally be acceptable to be filled. While we could not get an official comment from any California state officials, across the board, several California pharmacists told us they COULD NOT fill prescriptions unless they were written by U.S. physicians.

But beware; one overarching federal law trumps all of this. In order to get a prescription for a controlled substance filled, the prescription MUST be written by a physician with a valid Drug Enforcement Agency number – and those DEA numbers are issued only to U.S. providers.

Bottom line: If you’re from out of the U.S. and traveling the country, bring enough of your medications to cover your needs, or call a pharmacy in the state you’ll be traveling through to find out if you can get your prescriptions filled.

##rvt745 ##rv123-6/7/16

Chuck Woodbury
Chuck Woodbury
I'm the founder and publisher of I've been a writer and publisher for most of my adult life, and spent a total of at least a half-dozen years of that time traveling the USA and Canada in a motorhome.



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Gene Bjerke (@guest_137862)
2 years ago

We have never had any trouble getting a prescription transferred in the US. However in NY, the pharmacy will then cancel the remainder of the script, so that if you need another refill, you must get the doctor to write another prescription.

Nelda (@guest_1356)
7 years ago

Do not know whether it is still true, but about 10 years ago, on a five-month trip from Texas north including the Canadian Maritimes, we had our daughter forwarding mail. It took about 4 weeks for our mailed prescriptions to our home to get through customs to the post office in Canada where we had arranged to pick up our mail. Fortunately, a traveling companion used the same heart medication and shared until my husband’s supply arrived. We were told that it was delayed since it had to go through customs (true?). We picked up package when we circled back..

George (@guest_1333)
7 years ago

And if you travel from Canada to winter south you are restricted to the importation to the U.S. to a maximum of a 3 month supply. I have never been asked when crossing into the U.S. how much I have but generally have a 5 – 6 month supply. If asked, don’t lie, it’s not worth it. Also, make sure all the pills are in the original pharmacy filled bottles. U.S. Customs doesn’t like pills in those daily use containers.

Jenny Hartman (@guest_1316)
7 years ago

As a nurse who worked in doctor’s offices for over 20 years, I know that most insurance plan drug providers are happy to give you an extended supply of routine medications. All you have to do is call and request a larger supply and use the term “vacation override”. They all seem to recognize that term and are happy to send a larger than normal amount once they are made aware of the situation. You should have your departure and return dates and all of your prescription bottles handy when you call.

Elizabeth (@guest_1310)
7 years ago

I cannot comment on New York, nor do I need highly restricted narcotics, but I have my Rx at a nationwide chain and have had no problem refilling. Just call the local store and enter the Rx number and they have all the Rx and insurance information on their computers. Very useful and easy.

Larry (@guest_1308)
7 years ago

And here’s another problem at least if you’re from NY. You can get your non-controlled RX’s filled but the # of refills will be set to no refills. So next time you need a refill you are going to have to call your physician and ask them to call in a refill to the pharmacy your are near. Inconvenient and makes no sense but that’s New York.

Richard Smith (@guest_1299)
7 years ago

New York State will transfer your prescription from another state BUT lookout, they will give you that one refill and cancel the balance of that prescription . Don’t ask em how I know. Now when leaving Florida for the summer heading to NY I carry written prescriptions just to have filled in NY.

AL (@guest_1297)
7 years ago

I need to add more bad news to this topic. You mentioned that the Rver should bring enough medication to cover your needs. But, if you plan to take a long term journey, or are a full-timer, by law, you are limited to how much prescription medication you can fill AND carry with you, especially pain medication. Some of us ration our meds by reducing your dosage, or cutting tablets, but, you could be in violation of strict narcotics law if you have more than the legal limits, even if you have a valid prescription.
To add insult to injury, some pharmacies have their own policies that will not allow them to honor out of state narcotic prescriptions. And, if you are fortunate enough to find a pharmacy that will fill your script, you may find it frustrating when they do not have the medication in stock. For security purposes, their own policies do not allow them to say when their inventory will arrive and they will not call you when it comes in. You may have to return daily to check, nor will they confirm any the stock over the phone.
One other situation that I found was trying to get blood pressure medication. I do not have a primary care doctor, and my medication was given to me while I was in Mexico. I went to a medical clinic and although they wrote me a 30-day supply, they were reluctant to do so without seeing a U.S. prescription. I was told to go see a family doctor and get it taken care of. The problem there was that I would have to wait for an appointment, and I am not sure if they would do the same without further tests.
These are some examples that I have encountered in Florida, Massachusetts and Texas. Times have changed and things are not as easy as they once were.

al aslakson (@guest_1296)
7 years ago

Some states – New York among them – will transfer the prescription, then refill it ONCE and cancel it. They want you to see a New York physician and get a fresh prescription. And often the pharmacist who transfers it will not tell you that. Big surprise next time you try to get a refill. Learned that the hard way a couple of years ago.

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