Controlled Substance Concern With Travelling Out Of State

In our latest question and answer, our pharmacist discusses concerns an individual has getting their controlled substance prescription out of state.


I currently take a Schedule II medication. I will need to travel for work and be out of state for up to six months. Is it legal for my doctor to call in a prescription to a different state from where he prescribed the medication? If so, does that vary by state law? Alternatively, could he call it into a local national pharmacy and have them forward it to another location out of state?

Asked by ViewsAskew On Feb 19, 2024

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By HelloPharmacist Staff

Published Feb 22, 2024
Last updated Jul 18, 2024

Key points

  • In general, doctors are legally allowed to call in controlled substance prescriptions but laws vary greatly by state. Pharmacies may also have specific policies.


Thank you for reaching out!

Providing a precise answer to your question is pretty challenging due to various contextual factors.

The legality of a physician calling a Schedule II medicinal prescription to an out-of-state pharmacy fundamentally hinges on specific state laws and regulations.

Generally, doctors are allowed to call in controlled substances to different states, but there are several essential considerations I outline below.

Physician Licensure

The practitioner must possess a valid license to practice medicine in their current state and must also have the appropriate authorizations to prescribe controlled substances in that respective state.

State-Specific Legal Requirements

Every state has specific laws and guidelines about the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances. Therefore, the laws of the prescription-receiving state will apply, not those of the doctor’s home state.

When it comes to 'calling' in a prescription, as you mentioned in your question, this generally isn't the best way to go.

For instance, in New York, physicians can only call in a maximum 5-day supply of a CII drug, while there is no such restriction on electronic prescriptions (although CII controlled substances do have specific maximum-day supply stipulations).

Patient Transfer of Prescription

A strategy you proposed in your question was transferring your controlled substance prescription from a 'national' pharmacy in your current state to another out-of-state one. However, the feasibility of this varies state by state, with some having stricter regulations than others.

For example, while the DEA permits the transferring of electronic prescriptions of controlled substances under certain circumstances (Revised Regulation Allows DEA-Registered Pharmacies to Transfer Electronic Prescriptions at a Patient’s Request), some states prohibit such transfers, New York being one of them. State laws can, and often are, more strict than federal ones.

Therefore, it might be necessary to inquire about the law in your respective state.

Pharmacy Practices

It is important to note that some retail pharmacies may decline to accept out-of-state controlled substance prescriptions due to pharmacy-specific rules rather than legal restrictions.

I recall a time a few years back when many pharmacies were not accepting out-of-state controlled substance prescriptions from Florida due to the high rate of fraud. It wasn't a legal issue so much as it was a pharmacist's responsibility to ensure the validity of a prescription being dispensed.

All of this means that you should consult with the pharmacy about its policies for out-of-state prescriptions (especially controls).

Pharmacist Obligations

Lastly, I must highlight the accountability of pharmacists, who bear the responsibility to confirm the authenticity of the prescription and validate the medical appropriateness. As a result, wait times for filling such prescriptions might be slightly prolonged or prescriptions could be declined altogether (see my comments in the section above).

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, although it is typically lawful for a doctor to phone in a Schedule II prescription to another state, important considerations are state-specific laws, medical and pharmacy professionals' liabilities, and institutional procedures.

I apologize for not being able to give a more specific answer, but there are just too many unknown factors.

If I were giving you my recommendation, I would suggest establishing a relationship with your new 'out of state' pharmacy. Ideally, it should be the same chain as your home state pharmacy so they can access your pharmacy records.

Next, inform your doctor of the pharmacy you plan to use out of state and have them send a prescription electronically directly to that pharmacy (don't 'call' it in or attempt to transfer from a home state pharmacy). Finally, contact your new out-of-state pharmacy to discuss the dispensing of your prescription and provide any information they need.

Thanks for contacting us!


About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger, PharmD

Dr. Brian has been practicing pharmacy for over 13 years and has wide-ranging experiences in many different areas of the profession. From retail, clinical, program development, and administrative responsibilities, he's your knowledgeable and go-to source for all your pharmacy and medication-related questions! Dr. Brian Staiger also has herbalist training and educational certificates in the field of medical ethnobotany. Feel free to send him an email at [email protected]! You can also connect with Dr. Brian Staiger on LinkedIn.

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