Sometimes, during the pharmaceutical returns process, a drug cannot be returned to the manufacturer for credit.

There are many reasons why drugs may be classified as nonreturnable. The three largest issues include: the product’s condition, the timing of the product return relative to the expiration date, and whether the product was originally discounted or sold as nonreturnable by the manufacturer.

Following are the most common reasons that a drug product may not be returnable:

Poor Condition

  1. Damaged product: The product is damaged.
  2. Damaged label: The product label is defaced or damaged.
  3. Not in original package: The product is not in its original packaging or has been repackaged. Note: repackaged, but identifiable, controlled substances are not returnable.
  4. Has a prescription label: The prescription label is still on the product.

Out of returnable date range

  1. Too far out-of-date: The product is too far past its expiration date. In general, eligibility periods for returns range from 3 to 12 months after product expiration.
  2. Too far in-date: The product is too far within its expiration date as deemed by manufacturer policy —i.e. expiration is too far in the future.

Designated nonreturnable

  1. Sold as nonreturnable: The product was sold by the manufacturer as explicitly nonreturnable.
  2. Lot number: The product has a non-returnable lot number. For example, products sold in discounted or specially priced lots are generally non-returnable.
  3. Partials not accepted: The manufacturer does not accept “partials” i.e. returns of partially filled product packages.
  4. “Returns not accepted”: The manufacturer does not accept returns.

Free or discounted

  1. Free product: The product is a sample or a complimentary item.
  2. Discounted, short-dated: Products close to expiration, i.e. “short-dated” products that were sold at a discount are usually nonreturnable.


  1. Below minimum quantity or dollar value: The product is below the minimum quantity or below the minimum dollar value that the manufacturer will accept.
  2. From an unauthorized distributor: Products purchased from unauthorized distributors are not eligible for return credit.

If you’re not sure, how do you find out?

Overall, the reasons products may be nonreturnable depend on the return policies of each individual manufacturer. Additional complexity comes from the fact that manufacturer policies are constantly subject to change.
For this reason, it’s important to maintain access to the most current version of the policies for each product in your pharmacy’s inventory. This is a primary way to determine whether or not a particular item is returnable.
To learn more about non-returnable drugs download the Pharmacy Technician Handbook now.