Useful information

What is the “Refill Prescription,” which was introduced in April?


A prescription given by a doctor can only be used once, right? Even if you ask for the same medication as the last time without a prescription, whether at your regular pharmacy or any other pharmacy, you will not be given the medication.
However, starting in April 2022, a new system called “refill prescription” has been introduced, which allows a single prescription to be used repeatedly.

What is a “refill prescription”?

In order to receive a prescription for a drug, you must first see a doctor and have a prescription written. You cannot receive prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription.
However, many patients with chronic diseases such as lifestyle-related diseases may go to the hospital to get their usual medicine.
Refill prescriptions are designed to allow patients with stable symptoms to repeat their prescriptions within a certain period of time so that they can receive their usual medication without having to return to the doctor for a second visit.

What is a refill prescription?

With the introduction of the new system of refill prescriptions, the format of prescriptions has changed slightly. A new “refillable” column has been added, and prescriptions for which the physician has placed a “✓” in the column can be used repeatedly.
(From the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare document “Summary of Revision of Dispensing Fees in Fiscal 2022”)

How many times can it be used?

Although I mentioned that refill prescriptions can be used repeatedly, as expected, they cannot be used as many times as necessary. It can be used up to three times.
For the second or third time, if you bring a prescription with a “refillable” check (refill prescription) to the pharmacy, you can receive the medication without a doctor’s visit (re-consultation).

How to use a refill prescription

When you go to the pharmacy with a refill prescription, the pharmacist will note the “date of dispensing” as well as the “next scheduled dispensing date. The next scheduled dispensing date is the date on which the medication period elapses, starting from the dispensing date.
In other words, the next scheduled dispensing date is when the prescribed medication has been taken and used up as scheduled.
For example, let’s say that “one 28-day (4-week) supply of medication” is prescribed as “refillable up to 3 times”. Then, the next scheduled dispensing date would be 28 days after the date the medication was first dispensed at the pharmacy (dispensing date).
The second time, within 7 days before or after the next scheduled dispensing date, you go to the pharmacy with a refill prescription, and the same medication for the same number of days (28 days) will be dispensed again. Then, the date 28 days later becomes the next
scheduled dispensing date, and if you bring the refill prescription to the pharmacy within 7 days before or after the next scheduled dispensing date, you will receive a 28-day supply of the same medication.

What drugs are not covered by the refill prescription?

Not every medication is eligible for a refill prescription.
Refill prescriptions can only be used for patients with chronic diseases whose symptoms are stable. The doctor will make the decision based on the patient’s condition. Therefore, the use of refill prescriptions is expected in cases where the patient sees his/her family doctor and the same medication is prescribed each time the patient visits the hospital.
In addition, refill prescriptions are not available for drugs (new drugs or psychotropic drugs) or poultices that originally have a maximum duration of administration.

Same pharmacy for the second and third visits

The advantage of refill prescriptions is that the second or third time the patient receives the medication, it can be done without visiting the doctor. Busy people may appreciate this because it eliminates the hassle of a doctor visit.
On the other hand, however, there may be concerns about whether the symptoms are really stable and whether there are any changes in one’s physical condition. In the absence of a doctor’s visit, it is advisable for patients using refill prescriptions to pick up their medication at the same pharmacy for the second or third time, so that the pharmacist can continuously check their medication status.
If the pharmacist determines that a refill prescription is inappropriate, they may not dispense the medication (i.e., not give the medication) and may recommend that the patient visit a medical institution.
◎Refer to
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, “Summary of Revision of Medical Service Fee for
FY2022 Outpatient I
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, “Summary of Revision of Dispensing Fee in FY2022