Tips and Secrets to Filling Prescription Drugs


Jenny Guan | Jun 29, 2023 Insurance

As a new student to the U.S., getting medications might be very confusing as there are several facilities involved throughout the process. Therefore, we have put together a quick guide for everything you need to know when visiting the pharmacy and some common questions you may have.

Before getting prescription:

What is a prescription (RX)?

A prescription is a formal request from a health care professional to a pharmacist authorizing them to dispense a specific drug to a specific patient.

What is an over the counter (OTC) drug?

Over the counter drugs are medications that can be bought without a prescription. You can purchase these medications from local drug stores. Examples of over-the-counter drugs include painkillers, antihistamines, and cold/flu medications.

How can I get a prescription? Can I use the prescription from my home country?

To get a prescription, you will first need to visit a medical provider. Even if you have been taking the medication in your home country, you cannot use a prescription from your home country to fill medication. Pharmacies will only fill prescriptions written by a U.S. based physician.

At the end of your appointment, your doctor's office will ask you where to send your prescription. We suggest that you select a pharmacy that is close to your home address. All prescriptions in the U.S. must be sent electronically to the pharmacy of your choice.

Pharmacy selection tips:

Select a pharmacy that is chain drug store such as Costco, CVS, Kroger, Walgreens, Walmart...etc. Why?

  1. If your pharmacy does not have the medication in stock, and you need the prescription urgently, the pharmacist can call a different location and have the prescription filled there instead or have the drug delivered to your pharmacy location.
  2. After the first fill at a chain pharmacy – you can get refills at the same chain in any other location (also depends on your medication type). For example, if your prescription was first filled at a Walgreens in New York, and you travel to California for vacation, you can get a refill for the same prescription at a Walgreens in California.

Can I use a mail order pharmacy?

You can select a mail order pharmacy and double check if the pharmacy accepts insurance or if your insurance allows mail order. Some popular mail order pharmacies includes Amazon Pharmacy, PillPack and Capsule. If insurance does not cover the prescription, you can always pay out of pocket for it. Mail order pharmacies allow you to skip the trip to the pharmacy.

After getting prescription:

When your pharmacy receives the prescription, they will fill the medication and dispense to you. At the time of pickup, you should present your insurance ID card and instruct the technician to use the RX BIN, RX Group and PCN numbers on your ID card. Some common questions you may come across:

My doctor wrote the prescription for a 90-day supply, why am I getting only getting a 30-day supply? Can I get more than 30-day supply?

With most insurance companies, a 1-month supply is standard and the remaining 60 days will be counted as 2 refills, with the expectation you will refill the prescription every 30 days. To refill, call your pharmacy and provide your name, date of birth and the prescription you would like to refill.

If you’d like to pick up for more than 30 days, you will need to check with your insurance company if this is allowed. Prices/discounts may vary if you request for re-fills prior to the standard 30-day recurring schedule. Insurances will often be flexible with this, as it is commonly requested by those who are travelling.

What should I do if I run out of refills?

If you run out of fills, you will need to visit your physician’s office again for a new prescription. If you are unable to visit your physician’s office before you run out of medication, you can ask your pharmacist to contact your physician’s office for an emergency fill. Depending on your physician and the type of prescription, they might be able to prescribe you one more month of medication so that you do not run out before your next appointment.

The prescription is too expensive, how can I reduce the cost?

You have several options to reducing the cost of the prescription drug:

  1. Ask for a substitution: When filling a prescription, it will be either a generic drug or a specific brand name, which tend to be more expensive. If you’re prescribed a brand name, you can ask if there is a more affordable generic option available. If it’s already generic, the pharmacy can contact your prescribing doctor to see if there’s a more affordable drug they can prescribe.
  2. Manufacturer Coupons: With more expensive drugs (usually brand name), you can ask your physician to see if they can provide you a manufacturer's coupon. If the physician does not have one, you can always search for one on the medication’s website.
  3. Discount Programs: There are many sites that offer a discount for prescriptions like GoodRX, Singlecare, and WellRX. These websites allow you to search for a specific drug in your zip code area then provides the pricing at nearby pharmacies using their discount. Just visit the pharmacy and provide the pharmacy the billing information on their site (RX BIN, RX Group, PCN).

Bonus Tip: Did you know you can have your prescription transferred to another pharmacy (to a different chain or independent pharmacy)? Just ask the pharmacist in the new location to call the original pharmacy.

ISO Plans

All ISO plans include coverage for prescription drugs related to injury/sickness. When visiting the pharmacy remember to present your ISO insurance ID card to receive a discount for the medication. You can then file a claim with the pharmacy slip based on the policy benefits. Please note ISO plans do not use mail order pharmacies. Hope these tips were helpful! If you have any questions, feel free to .

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Founded in 1958, ISO prides itself on being the leader in providing international students with affordable insurance plans. Administered by former and current international students, we are able to assist our member with multilingual customer service in Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and more. ISO serves over 3,200 schools/colleges and more than 150,000 insured students every year.

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