Pharmacies keep on closing. What’s a patient to do?
From 2009 to 2014, approximately 10,000 pharmacies closed across the nation. Most of them were independently-owned stores in urban or rural areas. In some cases, these pharmacies couldn’t compete with major chains or struggled due to PBM practices.
In late 2019, even major chains like Walgreens and CVS announced closings. Then 2020 brought a whole new crop of challenges. This year hasn’t been easy for anyone in healthcare – especially patients.
Affluent suburbs and other areas with a high density of pharmacies can deal with closures more easily. When their regular stores close, patients can transfer their prescriptions to another location or another nearby chain. But patients in pharmacy deserts who rely on a single location may have to transfer to a store that is much farther away. For older adults, people living with disabilities, and people without reliable transportation, picking up their prescriptions can go from a simple errand to an enormous burden.
In that case, prescription delivery can be a saving grace.
What can you do if you’re struggling with medication access? How can you transfer a prescription, especially if the original pharmacy is closed? Read on to find out.
My pharmacy isn’t closed, but I can’t get there
ScriptDrop’s same-day delivery may be an option! The process is simple. When the pharmacy contacts you about picking up your prescription, ask to pay your copay. Then begin the ScriptDrop delivery request, pay the $8 fee, and wait for your prescription to appear on your doorstep.
If you live outside the ScriptDrop delivery radius, call your pharmacy to see if they offer their own shipping or delivery service. There may also be volunteers in your area who can help you. For example, in Chicago, St. James’ Community Church has collaborated with 200 Pharmacy and other organizations to make it easy for seniors with chronic illness to get their prescriptions.
My pharmacy is temporarily closed
Call the pharmacy or check the store or chain website for more information. In most cases, someone should be able to tell you when the store will reopen. If you don’t have enough medication to wait until then, someone should be able to assist you with transferring your prescription.
If you can’t find any information about whether the store will reopen or you can’t contact anyone about your prescription, read the next section to learn what to do next.
My pharmacy is indefinitely/permanently closed
First, create a current medication list. Use your prescription bottles to note the drug name, dosage, and prescription number. If the new pharmacy does manage to contact your previous pharmacy or your doctors, they may end up with a list of prescriptions including medications you no longer take. It’s a good practice to provide them with your own list for comparison’s sake.
Add any over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, or supplements to that list, and note any drug allergies or known adverse reactions. Your new pharmacist will want to check for any drug interactions when they fill your prescriptions.
Now you’ll need to find a new pharmacy. If your previous pharmacy is part of a chain, they should have access to your prescriptions and can transfer them to another location. Try calling your pharmacy’s number and see if anyone is available to help you. For example, CVS has call-forwarding services that connect patients to a nearby location if their regular store is closed.
If your previous pharmacy isn’t reachable, is not part of a chain, or you’re looking for different options than before, start with research. Ask people in your community for recommendations, then check the websites of those businesses or call the store for information. Ask about special services like medication compounding or adherence packaging, if you need them. Don’t forget that ScriptDrop’s home delivery is likely available to you.
Medicare patients should contact their drug plan to find an in-network pharmacy. Using an out-of-network pharmacy could be costly.
At this point, you have two choices.
Option 1: Call your doctor
If you aren’t certain you have any refills left or if your medication is a controlled substance, ask your doctor to send a new prescription to your new pharmacy. Use your medication list to double-check that they send the right prescriptions! Have the pharmacy’s name, phone number, and address available when you call your doctor.
Keep in mind that if you have prescriptions from your primary care physician and from specialists, you’ll need to call each doctor individually.
Option 2: Call the new pharmacy
If you have refills left, ask the new pharmacy to contact your previous pharmacy and/or doctors and transfer your prescriptions for you. You’ll need to provide them with your medication list, as well as:
- Your basic demographic information: name, birthdate, address, and phone number.
- Your insurance information, if you have prescription drug coverage.
- The previous pharmacy’s name, address, and phone number, and/or
- your doctors’ names and contact information.
Be sure to check on the progress of your prescriptions. Some states may have additional restrictions on prescription transfers, which can make the process longer.
If you can’t find a viable pharmacy and you have a two- to three-week supply of your current prescriptions, you might try an online pharmacy (learn more about them here). Some online pharmacies specialize in certain types of care, like dermatology or sexual health; be sure to select one that can handle all of your prescription needs. It’s wise to check whether they have National Association of Boards of Pharmacy accreditation to ensure your health information will be safe.
It’s never ideal to have to abruptly switch pharmacies, but it’s important to keep taking your daily prescriptions. Remember, if you are struggling with physically accessing your pharmacy or you’ve switched to a store in a less-convenient location, ScriptDrop may be able to help.