What's a pill count?

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Medically reviewed by Neil Chatterjee, MD

Random pill counts are a common protocol that doctors use to ensure that the patient is using the correct drug at the correct intervals. If your doctor is conducting a pill count, it usually doesn't mean that the doctor has any reason to distrust you. It is increasingly standard--if not required--for providers to maintain some sort of random pill count.

Pill counts often occur randomly. When your doctor decides to call you in for one, you may have anywhere from 24-48 hours to bring in your medication. You must always bring in your original pills in their original bottle, so that the doctor can match your bottle and pills with what they have in their records.

It is vital to keep your contact information up-to-date with your provider in case of a random pill count. If you don't respond to a request or never show up, your provider may refuse future prescriptions or even release you from their practice entirely!

Pill counts don't have to be scary, and for many patients they're increasingly the norm. Stay prepared and keep your phone number updated, and always ask your doctor what their precise expectations may be.

This post is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address any individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. When in doubt, speak to your doctor.

If you think you may be experiencing overdose or have any other medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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