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.

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