10 Conditions the ER Can't Help You With

Prescription Refills
Call your doctor’s office for emergency refills — even if it’s the middle of the night. © steveblose/Thinkstock

Let's say you're out of town for a holiday weekend and you realize you forgot to pack your medications. What do you do? You call your doctor, that's what you do. Even if your doctor has the night off, there will be an associated doctor on call who will contact a pharmacy near you to help you get the medicine you need. And the same is true for when you need a refill at home. Believe it or not, some people have used emergency department resources to request prescription refills. And there's even one anecdote about a patient who used ambulance services to the ER to make the refill request [source: Wahlgren]. You know he's not the only one out there.

It isn't that the emergency medical team doesn't want to help; it's that emergency departments aren't staffed to handle your ongoing prescription refills. In some instances, such as if you're trying to refill certain medications (opiates and other controlled substances), health care workers may suspect you're trying to game the system to feed an addition. They will contact the doctor who originally prescribed the medication to you.

ERs are equipped and authorized to dispense medications, including controlled substances, in an emergency, but the amount will be limited to the course of the emergency itself.

Author's Note: 10 Conditions the ER Can't Help You With

I'll admit that I've visited the ER for one of these conditions: hives. Those maddeningly itchy bumps came along with wheezing, and I was trying to be cautious. With a prior history of hives and allergies, I felt the potential for things to go wrong, and quickly, was pretty good. But, apparently, it could have waited until the morning. It wasn't that they didn't screen me (they did), but they sent me home with instructions to take antihistamines, and to call my doctor in the morning. Embarrassing? A little. But at least I didn't call 911 for a prescription refill. Or earwax impaction (that came up during the discovery phase of research). Or a paper cut (they sting way more than they should).

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