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Return-to-Stock: The Business Problem of Abandoned Prescriptions

Return-to-Stock: The Business Problem of Abandoned Prescriptions by Elements magazine |

June 10, 2015

When you have a bunch of prescriptions hanging in the bin for more than 10 to 14 days, several business issues can emerge.

“Return-to-stock prescriptions are a part of retail pharmacy life, but too many might represent a problem for the business,” said Jason Poquette, R.Ph., of the Honest Apothecary blog.

Here’s how to tell if your business has a problem, and how to handle it.

Business problems

Besides wasted effort and resources, return-to-stock prescriptions can also contribute to poor inventory control. “Returned prescriptions can result in overstock and reduced inventory turns, which means wasted dollars sitting on the shelf,” Poquette said.

“They might also leave you with medication that can’t be returned to the wholesaler, and can’t be sold unless another prescription is received for the same item.”

There’s also the clinical issue. “Worst of all is that too many return-to-stock prescriptions might represent potential patient adherence concerns, which is bad for patients and can negatively impact the pharmacy’s Star Ratings,” Poquette said.

Following procedure

Returning prescriptions to stock takes considerable effort. Pharmacies have to follow the correct procedures by referring to their state board of pharmacy’s regulations. “This usually includes removing any private patient information from labeling, while ensuring the label still contains the exact NDC, drug name and expiration date,” Poquette said.

Pharmacies are also responsible for reversing the claim for the prescription through the third party payer, if applicable. “Most pharmacy software systems handle and track this process to make sure it’s done correctly,” Poquette said. “But if the claim can’t be reversed online, the pharmacy should contact the payer for a manual reversal.”

Solving the issue

Limiting return-to-stock occurrences is a win-win for your business and for your patients. Poquette suggests talking with patients to discuss the importance of taking their medications and to work through side effects and effectiveness issues. “Communication is the most valuable tool,” he said.

Adherence programs are an option worth exploring. You can also use automated messages and text alerts to notify patients when a prescription is ready. “Personal phone calls are great, too,” Poquette said.

Jason Poquette, R.Ph., regularly writes about topics related to the pharmacy profession at


Why do patients abandon scripts?

“That’s a tough question, and the fact is there are lots of reasons,” said Jason Poquette, R.Ph., of the Honest Apothecary blog. “Statistically, the higher the copay, the more likely the prescription is to not get picked up. Additionally, a lot more ‘first fill’ prescriptions tend to get abandoned than refills, indicating that patients need more education at the start of treatment on the importance of their prescribed medications and on what to expect. Sometimes patients simply forget or haven’t understood that a prescription was ordered for them. And for some, transportation may be an issue.”



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