Five Pharmacy Frustrations and How To Avoid Them.
No....not the pharmacy....anything but the pharmacy!
Do you dread it? Does the very thought of visiting the pharmacy provoke a panic attack, make your stomach sick, or cause your blood to boil? Do you always seem to have a problem getting your prescriptions filled? Many people find the trip to the pharmacy fraught with frustrations, permeated with problems, and suffused with sorrows. Let me help. Here are the top 10 pharmacy frustrations and how to avoid them.
Problem #1: Refill too Soon
It was a dark and stormy night. I've always wanted to write that. Anyway, after dressing and dragging the children out into the cruel and cold October darkness you drive downtown then dodge the drips and dash into the drug store. Drenched you approach the gleeful girl with hopes of a quick and uncomplicated prescription purchase. No such luck. Sadly you're informed of an insurance refusal as the refill was too soon for reimbursement. Ugghh. "What a waste" you wonder as you hike heavy-hearted back to the car.
Insurance companies monitor refill patterns and typically will not allow refills until 80-90% of your previous fill has been used. They do this to prevent overuse and the stockpiling of medications by patients. To avoid this inconvenience order your monthly refills about 5 days before you will be out and always call the pharmacy before making the trip to ensure the prescription has been successfully filled.
By the way, if you want to arrange to have all your prescriptions filled on the say day...READ THIS ARTICLE.
Problem #2: No Refills Left
"What" you reply to the seemingly unsympathetic store clerk "how can it be out of refills...I have to take this forever?"
It is sad...but true. Prescriptions, even the best of them, eventually run out of refills and have to be authorized by your prescriber. Even if your doctor has said you will be on it forever...it still has to be renewed from time to time with your MD. How often depends on the prescriber and on the pills. Some prescriptions can be refilled for a year, others for 6 months, and some not at all. And when your prescription runs out of refills it generally means a phone call, a FAX, or an email to your doctor. What happens then is that your doctor (or an appointed agent) reviews these requests, checks to see when you are due for an appointment, and generally calls back to authorize a new order.
But this takes time. Sometimes a few hours, sometimes a couple days. So to avoid the frustration of an unfruitful visit to the pharmacy always check to see if your prescription is still refillable (look at the refills left on the bottle), also check to be sure your prescription is not over 1 year old (typically the bottle will say you have "x" number of refills by such and such a date). If it needs to be authorized by your doctor, give them a couple days, and always call before heading down.
Problem #3: Prior Authorization
"I'm sorry" your pharmacist informs you "but your medication apparently requires Prior Authorization". Another problem....
Most insurance plans have a formulary, which is a list of drugs that they cover at various copay tiers, as well as a list of drugs they only cover with special approval under special circumstances. They do this to help encourage prescribers to write for medications which may be equally effective but less expensive. However, sometimes you really need this drug! So the insurance company has a process, known as Prior Authorizaion, by which your doctor can get this medication covered for you. It can sometimes be a pain. It could take just hours, or maybe just days, or even sometimes weeks to get approved.
What can you do? Find out the exact name of the medication from your pharmacy. Write it down. Then call that nifty "800" number on the back of your insurance card and follow the prompts to speak to a representative. Ask them what your doctor needs to do to get your medicine approved. Write down the phone or FAX numbers your doctor may need. Also find out if there is an alternative that doesn't require Prior Authorization. Provide your doctor with this information ASAP. Give them a couple days, then call your pharmacy and see if you have a prescription ready for you. Usually you will.
Also, if it turns out that it won't be approved, and you have to have it, be sure to read this article about how to save money on your prescription medication!
Problem #4: Out of Stock
They ran out of your medicine? Is that possible? First global warming and now this?? What is this world coming to!
Generally pharmacies try to maintain enough stock to handle the expected needs of a given day or a given week. But prescriptions are, frankly, unpredictable. All it takes is one or two unexpected new prescriptions for a large quantity of a medication and we run out. So, to avoid this predicament, always call before actually coming down to see if your prescription was filled completely.
Problem #5: Child Safety Caps
Do you have trouble with these terrible tops? Do you find yourself giving the bottle to your grandson to open because you can't get the cap off yourself? For many people these caps are not mere inconveniences, they are impossible. I have had customers resort to radical measures to release their remedies from these cantankerous closures.
If you with to be delivered from this distress:
1) Ask for non-safety caps. They may make you sign a simple form, but you won't need a lawyer. Then all future fills should be fine.
2) Check before you leave the pharmacy. Take a peek in the bag just to be sure they haven't forgotten to follow through on your request. Ten seconds spent now could save a month of grief. Also, save a few non-safety caps in your medicine cabinet in case you need them in the future.
Of course, be careful to store all such medicine in a safe place, well out of reach from children who might be tempted to try it.