By Jan Chait | February 5, 2008 2:04 pm
Lately, I’ve been reading some comments—both good and bad—about mail-order pharmacies and customer service. I know that some insurance policies require prescriptions to be filled via mail order. Or maybe it has to do with cost. That is, if you opt to use a local pharmacy, the cost to you is higher. I’m not really sure. My insurance carrier tried the mail-order route, but stopped requiring it shortly afterwards. Too many complaints.
In this case, insurance companies may be, as they say, penny-wise and pound-foolish.
There are priceless health advantages to using a local pharmacy. In fact, one of the most important members of my health-care team may well be my pharmacist. Face it: I have Type 2 diabetes, asthma, and arthritis, and I see several different doctors. On top of that, I have some drug allergies. There are a lot of chances for error, and my pharmacist has saved me on more than one occasion.
A couple of weeks ago, I left my family practice doctor’s office with prescriptions for various and sundry pills and ointments, dropped them off at the pharmacy, and continued to run errands.
But when I went back to pick up my four items, I only got three back. Turns out that one was in a class that I’m allergic to. They’d never filled a prescription for that drug for me before and had already called my doctor’s office to request a substitute.
I can see that happening even if you use mail order for your maintenance drugs, but what would happen if the drug your doctor prescribed interacted with one you were already taking? Would either of your pharmacies—local or mail-order—catch that? My pharmacy has, when one of my doctors prescribed something that could have interacted with a medicine I was already on.
That, in itself, is a good reason to get all of your prescription items from the same pharmacy.
Consider getting your over-the-counter drugs from the pharmacy that fills your prescriptions, too. Oh, maybe not all of them—like that daily aspirin—but for the times you need, for example, a cough and cold medication.
My husband picked up a cold medicine for me once, and had the foresight to ask the pharmacist if it was a good choice. No, she told him, with my medical conditions and the prescription drugs I was taking, another choice would be better.
Now, that’s customer service you might not get if you spread your prescriptions around!
In fact, the reason I changed to this pharmacy may years ago was for its customer service. When I took Regular insulin, I used an insulin pen. However, when I switched to a rapid-acting insulin analog, I had to go back to syringes and vials. When I would ask my previous pharmacist if it was available in pens yet, I would get a negative answer. Guess what I found out one day? It was available in pens. When I got the same old answer from the pharmacist and informed him that, yes, you could get it in pens now, I got another excuse (“Just because they’re available in pens doesn’t mean our distributor …”).
I stopped listening and called what is now my current pharmacy. “Hold on and let me check,” the pharmacist there said. “I just talked to our distributor: We’ll have that for you after 8 o’clock in the morning.”
At that point, the former pharmacy lost all of my family’s prescriptions plus income from ancillary items we bought while wandering around the store while our prescriptions were being filled.
While it has a small-town flavor in that it’s near my neighborhood and the pharmacists know me, my pharmacy is also part of a national chain which, with my forgetfulness, has come in handy. Like the time I was halfway through Missouri on my way to southwestern Kansas and realized I’d left my insulin at home. Oops! I called my husband, who checked on the locations of stores on the way. The one I stopped at looked up my prescription on its computer, and I was good to go. Another time, my asthma flared up when I was out of town, and I hadn’t brought a rescue inhaler with me.
Doctors can err, and I can be an airhead. It’s good to have somebody who is double-checking the doc and keeping me out of trouble.
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