How can patients get a paper prescription so we can buy meds from Canada? Everyone is e-prescribing!

Answered by Gabriel Levitt, MA | Posted February 28, 2019
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It is true—there are substantial benefits to electronic prescribing (e-prescribing). It facilitates the integration of prescription records into the patient's medical record, has the potential to minimize medication errors, and may reduce prescription theft and forgery of controlled drugs. The main reason that states have adopted rules to encourage e-prescribing is to prevent the abuse of prescription narcotics, which is a national epidemic.

However, access to affordable medication is also a national problem, and the benefits of e-prescribing need to be balanced with the patient's freedom of choice.

Paper Prescriptions are Necessary for Legitimate Online Pharmacies

For example, if you cannot afford Advair locally, other options are available internationally. 

One thing though: You need a valid prescription to order the medication from a verified international online pharmacy. This means either obtaining a written prescription to mail/fax or, technically, your doctor may also call in a prescription.

For Advair Diskus 250/50mg, the price in many U.S. pharmacies is often about $400 for a one-month supply. 

Ordering Advair Diskus online from a PharmacyChecker-verified online pharmacy is an alternative: the price is about $135-$140 at Canadian pharmacies; and around $80 in the UK.

State Laws Surrounding E-prescribing vs. Paper Prescriptions

While most states have provisions allowing e-prescribing and some have extremely strict requirements mandating its use, all have exceptions that allow consumer choice.

Electronic Prescribing in New York State

The rules in New York (as of January 2017) provide exceptions to allow written prescriptions. One of these exceptions takes into consideration a paper prescription when the medication is “…dispensed by a pharmacy located outside the state, outside the country, or on federal property, including and not limited to the following examples; Veterans Administration, West Point, Fort Drum, and Indian Reservations.”

Therefore, in New York, if you intend to have your prescription filled out-of-state, a doctor can legally hand you a paper prescription. New York State healthcare providers will not interfere in a patient’s personal decision to import lower-cost medicine from pharmacies outside the U.S. that require a valid prescription.

We found a similar situation in Florida. In fact, Florida law expressly requires a balance between e-prescribing and the freedom to choose a pharmacy, stating "electronic prescribing shall not interfere with a patient's freedom to choose a pharmacy."

For some patients, this means having a prescription in hand to shop prices at local pharmacies or to send to an affordable credentialed international online pharmacy.

What if my provider insists on e-prescribing my medication?

If your healthcare provider says they can't give you a paper prescription, then let them know the law is on your side. Explain that your choice of pharmacy is often based on the cost of the medication being prescribed, which means having a prescription in hand to shop around for the lowest price.

Updated November 26, 2019

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Comments
Thank you for this information. I live in Florida and my primary care physician has given me paper scripts without a problem. I wondered if he would get in trouble as Medicare might be pushing him to stop this practice. Your description of Florida law explains this. Are there many states that prohibit this?
Hi there-- As far as we know, most states require a prescriber write you a paper prescription if requested to do so.
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