Imagine the frustration and even the pain of needing a prescription, but not being able to get it due to a bureaucratic snafu.

That’s the reality for some Nova Scotians who feel something needs to be done to make sure patients can get the medications they need.

Halifax resident Aaron Dunlap’s prescription for Concerta, a drug similar to Ritalin, has run out and he hasn’t been able to get it renewed.

Dunlap says that will mean trouble for him on the job when he becomes inattentive.

“Instructions and conversations and words are, as my psychologist that diagnosed me with ADD put it, like radio static,” he explains.

Dunlap’s prescription is a so-called ‘triplicate drug’ - a class of drugs that require extra paperwork to counter the possibility of abuse.

When his regular doctor went out on medical leave, attempts to have it renewed at his medical clinic were caught in a web of red tape.

“They would only hold to the fact that their walk-in doctor would not provide triplicate prescriptions, that there was no other doctor going to be available, and we had to go to the ER,” says Dunlap’s wife, Erica Saunders.

But health officials at the emergency room told them they would not prescribe triplicate drugs and they were left with nowhere to turn.

Kevin McNamara, deputy health minister for the province, says patients like Dunlap are the responsibility of their family doctors, who are supposed to hand over enough information for the replacement physician to make treatment decisions.

Dunlap was eventually issued a two-month supply of his prescription but for other patients caught in similar situations, McNamara could only offer cold comfort.

He says it all comes back to the family physician.

“It depends on what’s in his charting, if his charting system wasn’t perfect, it may put the replacement doctor into an awkward situation,” he says.

Saunders says her husband’s prescription was renewed only after they took their complaints to the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Ron Shaw