A Positive Surprise at the Pharmacy
With so many stories of people jumping through mazes and hoops and encountering disappointing brick walls when it comes to getting their medication, I thought I’d share a recent positive experience I had at the pharmacy.
First of all, let me start out by saying that this story is not about one of the multiple sclerosis disease-modifying therapies (DMT). This story is about the process of obtaining any medication.
I suspect that if you are reading this article, you have a chronic disease, love someone with a disease, or at least know someone with a chronic disease. But unless you’ve had to juggle the task of actually getting your hands on medication, you might not know what kind of challenges patients may encounter at the pharmacy.
Limited medication in stock
Years ago, I got my prescriptions filled at a local pharmacy that was familiar. I didn’t make an active choice to go there, it was just habit. But too often, that neighborhood pharmacy would not have enough of a medication in stock to fill my entire prescription. They would give me what they had and I would have to return for the rest in a few days. It was a frequent hassle and I eventually switched pharmacies.
Fortunately, my insurance company doesn’t require that I use a mail-order service. I am able to get 90 days worth of medication at the local pharmacy for the cost of 2 copays just as if it were mail-order for most of my drugs. There are some exceptions, however, and insurance policies can change. The first time one of my maintenance medications was only approved for 1-month quantities I was quite annoyed. That change meant more trips to the drug store and 50% more copays. It also meant that sometimes I didn’t have medication when I needed it.
If you go to more than one doctor, chances are that you have medication refills coming due at different times because they were originally ordered at different time. One of the most annoying things is to go pick up several medications during one pharmacy visit, to receive an automated phone call 3 days later alerting you to yet another prescription, a straggler, which is ready to be picked up.
To add to the complexity, imagine that you do this for yourself and 3 family members. I’m not kidding when I tell you I’m such a frequent flier at the local CVS that the pharmacists and pharm techs know me by name and will sometimes begin to retrieve my meds from the storage bin even before I have to ask. If I only have to go to the pharmacy twice in one month, it’s a good month.
Phone calls galore
None of what I’ve described above involves a specialty pharmacy, prescription assistance, prior authorization, or other things that get in the way of your doctor prescribing a drug and you getting in your hands. Matt was recently talking about the multitude of phone calls he has to make just to arrange for his monthly injectable medication to be delivered. Seriously, why should any of us have to do that month after month?
The only phone call should one be from the pharmacy: “We see that it’s time to refill your prescription for medication X, would you like us to do that for you now?”
I have a confession. My pharmacist does make that phone call when I haven’t refilled a prescription on schedule. Oftentimes, I haven’t ordered a refill because I still have plenty of medication on hand due to a dosage change or “as needed” usage. Honest to goodness, my local CVS pharmacist calls me to check!
Now the positive experience I promised
So here’s what happened recently. I went to the pharmacy to pick up meds for myself and my mother. One of the crinkly paper bags seemed to be heavier than usual. When I got to the car, I pulled it out and discovered that my medication — the one mentioned above that could only be given in 4 weeks supplies due to an insurance policy — was enough for 3 months. And, I was only charged a single copay.
Talk about doing a little happy dance right there in my driver’s seat. That single bag containing 12 vials of medication, rather than four, just saved me multiple trips to the store, time online and/or potential phone calls with automated systems to make sure that I have medication on hand each Friday for the next 3 months. People who have to deal with monthly refills know what a blessing this is!
Be well, my friends. Thanks for reading.