Suboxone Early Fills In New York

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses the laws for refilling Suboxone in New York State.

Question

My wife has a prescription for Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) 2mg, which she takes daily. NYS laws restriction is for every 30-day refills. However, it also states that no more than 7 days should be on hand at the time of a refill as determined by the pharmacist by the prescribed date or fill date. My wife sees her doctor on or about every 30 days. My question is, if prescribed on December 29, 2021, and picked up on December 31, 2021, how soon can she pick up her next refill, assuming the pharmacist uses the fill date? Is it January 26, 2022 (so no more than 7 days are on hand) or does she have to wait until January 30, 2022?

Asked by Richard On Dec 30, 2021

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By HelloPharmacist Staff

On Dec 30, 2021

Key points

  • In New York State, Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) is a Schedule III controlled substance.
  • Per New York State Law, among other requirements, Schedule III controlled substances can be filled/refilled when an individual has used all but a seven days' supply of that drug (i.e. has a 7 day supply or less on hand).
  • Some pharmacies, pharmacists, and providers (those who write the prescription) are more strict and can hold you to a time closer to your due date.
  • Reach out to your specific pharmacy for more details on when you can fill your prescription.

Hello and thanks for writing us!

I answered a similar question not too long ago, but I'm more than happy to talk about your situation too.

Suboxone Fill Laws In New York

Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) is a Schedule III narcotic in the state of New York (as defined in Section 3306 of Article 33: New York State Controlled Substances Act).

You are correct in saying that New York State controlled substance law (Part 80: Rules and Regulations on Controlled Substances in NYS) has a section that states an individual may have no more than a seven-day supply of the drug on hand before getting a new prescription fill. The actual law reads:

No additional prescriptions for a controlled substance may be issued by a practitioner to an ultimate user within 30 days of the date of any prescription previously issued unless and until the ultimate user has exhausted all but a seven days' supply of that controlled substance provided by any previously issued prescription.
Section 80.69 - Schedule III, IV and V substances

This law is sometimes informally known as the '7-day rule'.

I want to point out here, and this is an important emphasis, even though the law states that you can new fill of Suboxone as long as you don't have more than a 7 day supply on hand, many pharmacists are more strict in this regard, and could hold you until a time closer to your actual due date, based on their professional judgment.

It's also not uncommon that a particular pharmacy, or even pharmacy chain, may have more stringent rules in regard to early controlled substance fills. This has increasingly become the case in recent years, especially since the opioid epidemic has gained more attention.

In the same vein, it's fairly common for prescribers, especially those who are pain specialists, to indicate a specific date on which a controlled substance prescription they have written can be filled.

In order to get an accurate date of when you can get your next Suboxone fill, please reach out to your pharmacy.

Suboxone Fill Dates Example

So, let's get to your example specifically.

Now, you mention 'prescribed date' a few times in your question, which I'm assuming means the 'written date' of the prescription.

The date a prescription for Suboxone is written isn't really relevant here, as long as you fill it before it expires (which is 30 days from the 'written date' for Suboxone). 

It's the pick-up date, and fill date, that is important.

If your pick-up date and fill date are different (for example, your prescription was filled on Monday, but you didn't pick it up until Wednesday), your pharmacy/pharmacist, when calculating your 'due' date, should be using your pick-up date, as that gives the most accurate picture of how much drug someone has on hand.

However, many times, your fill date is used instead, and this could be for a few reasons, including:

  • Some pharmacy software only shows fill dates, or it's difficult to readily access pick-up dates.
  • Many state prescription drug monitoring programs only require the reporting of fill dates (also referred to as 'Rx Dispensed' dates).

For the sake of your example, let's say your prescription was filled and picked up on December 31, 2021, and it was for a 30-day supply.

Your 'due date' (the date on which you have no medicine for that day's dose) is January 30, 2022. Seven days early would be January 23, 2022.

Filling your next Suboxone prescription on January 23, 2022, would be within the bounds of the law assuming you haven't filled the medication early in the past.

Also, the caveat here is what I mentioned above...just because it's legal to fill your prescription that early, doesn't mean your pharmacist will.

Final Words

In your question, you ask if your wife can pick up her prescription on January 26, 2022, which would be four (4) days early (assuming there are no other early fills).

This is certainly within the seven-day supply the law states, but as I've written above, I can't tell you whether or not your prescription can be filled on that date. That is up to your pharmacist and doctor.

If you need the prescription a few days early, be sure to let the pharmacist know why.

I can't speak for your pharmacist, but in general, if you have a good reason why you need it early (e.g. travel, holidays, stolen meds, etc..), and they have no reason to be worried about abuse, safety, or diversion, they should be able to accommodate you. It will also help if you let your doctor know as well.

I highly recommend reaching out to your specific pharmacy to discuss when your medication can be filled.

References

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger, PharmD

Dr. Brian has been practicing pharmacy for over 11 years and has wide-ranging experiences in many different areas of the profession. From retail, clinical and administrative responsibilities, he's your knowledgeable and go-to source for all your pharmacy and medication related questions!

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