By: Jerry Greskovic, RPh, Associate Vice President of Ambulatory Pharmacy Services
Mail-order, scheduled refills and on-site options can help when you’re far from a pharmacy.
Across the country, several major drugstores have announced pharmacy closures, leading to longer trips for many to pick up prescriptions. If you find yourself in one of these so-called “pharmacy deserts,” don’t worry. There are several ways to make managing your prescriptions easier.
What are pharmacy deserts?
A “pharmacy desert” is a community without convenient, easy access to a local pharmacy.
Rural counties are often classified as pharmacy deserts. If you live in a rural area, getting to the drugstore to pick up prescriptions could be quite a drive. But even urban areas can be pharmacy deserts, especially if access to public transportation is limited.
How do you know if you live in a pharmacy desert?
In suburban areas, if you live more than two miles away from the nearest pharmacy, or a half mile if you don’t have access to a car, you may live in a pharmacy desert. In rural areas, it’s defined as 10 miles or more from the nearest pharmacy.
What do you do if you live in a pharmacy desert?
When it’s difficult or inconvenient to get to a pharmacy, there are several ways you can make managing your medications easier.
- Consider mail-order pharmacy: Most insurance plans offer a mail-order alternative to a traditional retail pharmacy. Review your insurance benefits and see if your medications are eligible for mail-order. Your prescriptions will come right to your home when you need them. Shipping is usually free. And sometimes your copays are much lower when you use mail-order, too.
- Adjust your refill schedule: If you prefer to pick up your medications in person, your pharmacy can put all your medications on the same refill schedule. Then you’ll get a new supply of all your medications at the same time. Voila! No more multiple trips to the pharmacy to pick up refills.
- Pick up your prescriptions where you get your care: If your clinic or doctor’s office has a pharmacy on site, ask if you can get your medications when you see your doctor. Not only will you make fewer trips, but your pharmacist and doctor may be able to better coordinate your care plan. That can help you manage your medications more effectively, including potential side effects.
Part of staying well is taking the medication you need in the way it’s prescribed. To smooth difficulties getting your prescriptions — including getting to the pharmacy and affording medications — reach out to your pharmacist, doctor or health insurance plan. They’ll help explain the specific options available to you.