HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.

What to do if you run out of your medicine

If you run out of your medicine before your next prescription is ready, you can go to any community pharmacy and ask for an ‘emergency supply’. Take your empty box with you, if you can, because the pharmacist needs to see all the details of your medicine. If you go to one pharmacy all the time, they will have details on your ‘Patient Medication Record’. They can give you at least 5 days’ supply of your medicine to get you through to your next prescription.

They may ask for a small payment to cover the cost of the medicines, or they may give it to you as a ‘loan’ against your next prescription. [This means that if you take one tablet each day, they will give you 5 tablets for your emergency supply, and then if your next prescription is for 28 tablets, they will give you the other 23 when you get the prescription.] If you pay for your prescription [also see our ‘Do you need to pay for your prescriptions?’ section], they might take the prescription charge to cover your emergency supply and then you won’t have to pay it again when you bring in your prescription.

If the pharmacist questions whether your case is an emergency, please remind them that if you have a break in supply you are at risk of more symptoms, or withdrawal symptoms. The pharmacist has to make the final decision, however, and may say ‘No’. 

  • You are unlikely to get an emergency supply from the pharmacy for medicines like methylphenidate or any ‘azepam’, as they are controlled drugs and the pharmacist has to obey the law.
  • If you are under 16, you may also have more difficulty getting your supply as some pharmacists are nervous about giving any medicine out to a young person aged under 16 on their own. In those cases, take the empty box, and take an adult you trust with you. 

See our section on ‘Roles of the pharmacist’: doing this as soon as you start taking medicines will help the pharmacist and their staff to know you and your medicines better.

Pharmacists get worried when people get a lot of emergency supplies, but you might be having problems getting yourself organised. You could ask them to help you if they have a repeat prescription ordering and collection service.

If you are not able to get a supply from the pharmacy, contact your hospital team or go to the nearest hospital with your empty medication box.

Notes for young people in Scotland: 

There is a national ‘Community Pharmacy Urgent Supply (CPUS)’ scheme. It works in a similar way to the system described above, but the pharmacist can write a prescription and a copy of it goes to your GP.

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