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Do pharmacies have the legal obligation to keep the prescription for 10 years in the United States?

I am mostly interested for in the states of California, and Massachusetts.

I am asking as this was a claim I heard from a CVS pharmacist in Massachusetts, and I wonder whether it is true or a technique to increase the odds that the customer comes back.

  • How would such a claim increase the odds that a customer come back? – phoog Oct 1 '16 at 19:42
  • @phoog for the refill – Franck Dernoncourt Oct 1 '16 at 19:43
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    I don't think it's possible to refill a prescription more than one year after it was written. At least that's the case in NY. Anyway, their keeping the prescription doesn't stop you from filling a new prescription at another pharmacy. – phoog Oct 1 '16 at 19:45
  • @phoog Sure, customers are more likely to refill a few weeks after the first purchase. It doesn't stop, but it can be a bit more inconvenient. – Franck Dernoncourt Oct 1 '16 at 19:46
  • Yes, of course. I still don't understand how a ten-year requirement or lack thereof affects a customer's ability to switch. Are you asking them to return the prescription to you so you can take it to another pharmacy, and they're refusing, or what? – phoog Oct 1 '16 at 19:53
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Pursuant to US Federal Regulations, Title 21 Code of Fed. Reg. Section 1304.04(h)(2) and (h)(4) controlled prescriptions must be retained for federal inspection upon request. According to section (a), these records must be kept for two (2) years, not ten.

(h) Each registered pharmacy shall maintain the inventories and records of controlled substances as follows:

(1) Inventories and records of all controlled substances listed in Schedule I and II shall be maintained separately from all other records of the pharmacy.

(2) Paper prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances shall be maintained at the registered location in a separate prescription file.

(3) Inventories and records of Schedules III, IV, and V controlled substances shall be maintained either separately from all other records of the pharmacy or in such form that the information required is readily retrievable from ordinary business records of the pharmacy.

(4) Paper prescriptions for Schedules III, IV, and V controlled substances shall be maintained at the registered location either in a separate prescription file for Schedules III, IV, and V controlled substances only or in such form that they are readily retrievable from the other prescription records of the pharmacy. Prescriptions will be deemed readily retrievable if, at the time they are initially filed, the face of the prescription is stamped in red ink in the lower right corner with the letter “C” no less than 1 inch high and filed either in the prescription file for controlled substances listed in Schedules I and II or in the usual consecutively numbered prescription file for noncontrolled substances. However, if a pharmacy employs a computer application for prescriptions that permits identification by prescription number and retrieval of original documents by prescriber name, patient's name, drug dispensed, and date filled, then the requirement to mark the hard copy prescription with a red “C” is waived.

(5) Records of electronic prescriptions for controlled substances shall be maintained in an application that meets the requirements of part 1311 of this chapter. The computers on which the records are maintained may be located at another location, but the records must be readily retrievable at the registered location if requested by the Administration or other law enforcement agent. The electronic application must be capable of printing out or transferring the records in a format that is readily understandable to an Administration or other law enforcement agent at the registered location. Electronic copies of prescription records must be sortable by prescriber name, patient name, drug dispensed, and date filled.

Here, the feds seem to be saying that the original, not a copy, must be retained for inspection, and then presumably destroyed. Therefore it would likely be illegal for them to return these to you. However, other prescriptions would not be subject to any of these requirements.

CA may add to these requirements with state law, but I didn't find any there.

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