How to Craft a Profitable Return Policy 

return policy pharmacy

After a patient makes a purchase at the pharmacy, you hope they go home and are 100 percent satisfied.

But sometimes, that’s not the case. Patients might purchase too much of a product, purchase something that doesn’t fit, or find out what they bought isn’t what they thought it was.

For those cases, you need an easy-to-understand return policy so your staff members can easily process the request and get patients the refund they need.

Here is how you can get your return policy right.

Why have a return policy?

From a purely business standpoint, it could seem like accepting returns is a bad deal for your pharmacy. Returns chip away at your profitability, and there’s no guarantee that you will be able to return that merchandise to the shelves.

But without a clear return policy, you risk leaving patients dissatisfied. Or they could take advantage of loopholes to return merchandise that is extremely old or mostly used.

A generous return policy helps your patients purchase items from your pharmacy with confidence. They’re more likely to add a new product to their basket if they know they can return it if they end up changing their minds.

You can even use your return policy as a marketing return. Let patients know that they can make a return with no-hassle or no extra charges.

Though it might feel counterintuitive, a generous return policy can actually increase your sales. The Washington Post reported that a lenient return policy led to more returns, but it also led to an increase in purchases.

On the other hand, if you don’t offer returns or only offer returns under very specific circumstances, that can damage your reputation. If a patient wants to return an item and is told “no,” they might complain to their friends and family about how inconvenient and inflexible your pharmacy is.

Components of a return policy

Time frame

Establish a window of time in which you are willing to accept returns. Some stores limit their return window to 15 or 30 days, while others extend to 90 days.

Some outlets have experimented with having an unlimited return window, but that can lead to bad actors taking advantage. L.L. Bean famously had to end its unlimited return policy after receiving returns of items that had been destroyed or fished out of trash cans, which cost them a fortune.

For most retail stores, 90 days is plenty of time for customers to figure out they don’t need or aren’t satisfied with an item.

What can be returned

You’ll also have to decide what merchandise can be returned for a refund. For pharmacies, this can mean deciding whether your policy applies to both your front-end merchandise and prescriptions or just your front-end merchandise.

While it is technically legal for pharmacies to accept returns of prescription drugs in most states, there are lots of regulations around what needs to be done with them after they are returned. Some pharmacies exclude prescription drugs from their refund policy to avoid having to jump through these hoops.

If you decide to take returns on prescriptions, you should craft a separate return policy from your over-the-counter return policy.

You should also decide if there are any other products that you would like to exclude from your return policy. For example, you may state that clearance items or perishable food items are all final sale.

Condition of items

Outline what condition items should be in when they are returned. Because you deal with medications along with health and beauty products, it is reasonable to expect that items be unopened and unused in order to be accepted for return.

This way, in most cases, you can put items back on the shelves to resell instead of requiring you to write the return off as a complete loss.

You can make exceptions for people who open a product and find that it is defective in some way. In that situation, you want to step up and make things right by offering a refund even though you can’t resell the item.

Full refund vs. store credit

Another decision you’ll have to make about your return policy is how patients will get their money back when they return an item.

You can either offer them a full refund on the card they paid with, or you can offer them store credit. When you make returns for store credit, you don’t actually lose revenue on returns. However, some patients will just want the money back and be frustrated if store credit is their only option.

Patients who come into your store regularly may be fine with store credit. You can even incentivize them to return for store credit by offering 10 percent more credit than they would get with a cash refund.

Encourage exchanges

Another way to lessen the blow of a return is to turn that return into an exchange. This way, you’re immediately replacing the profit loss from the return with the profit gain from a new sale.

When a patient returns an item, see if you can find an alternative product that better suits their needs. You may be able to help that patient discover a new product — and they’ll come away having had a positive customer service experience that they can tell their friends and family about.

Where to post your return policy

A well-written return policy is a marketing tool for your pharmacy. It shouldn’t be buried in fine print. Prominently post your return policy so that patients know what it is before they buy. That way, they can be encouraged to make purchases they may have been on the fence about.

Here are a few places you can post your return policy so patients know what to expect when they make a return:

  • Your website FAQ page
  • At the cash register
  • On the bottom of your receipts


A clear, easy-to-find return policy also saves frustration for patients who want to return an item but aren’t sure how to go about it.


A Member-Owned Company Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy-side of their business. Founded and run by pharmacists, PBA Health serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, wholesaler contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products — offering the lowest prices in the secondary market.


Editor’s Picks


Elements is written and produced by PBA Health, a buy-side solutions company.

Sign up for a FREE subscription to Elements magazine!


Sign up to receive PBA Health’s e-newsletter to get the latest Elements web articles in your inbox every other week, along with industry news, supply chain insights, and exclusive offers.

Related Articles

Popular Articles