Top 5 Tips for Times When You Can’t Get Your Medications When You Need Them

By Brooke Ruhland, Certified Specialty Pharmacist

We’ve all been there. Either we or our loved ones need a prescription now and can’t get it filled right away. Sometimes the situation is urgent for people like TV star, Sarah Hyland. Even the smallest infections can be life threatening to a transplant recipient. In other cases, it’s a big inconvenience to unstrap three kids from car seats, trek into the pharmacy mid-snow-storm only to learn the prescription for strep throat can’t been filled until tomorrow. What can you do in either situation? There are options!

First and most simple – find the nearest 24×7 pharmacy from the same chain that you currently use. A different store from the same chain should be able to see your prescription on their system and get you your medication. In Sarah Hyland’s case, there is a 24×7 CVS pharmacy less than 10 miles from the Studio City store that was closed when she tried to fill her prescription.

If that isn’t an option in your part of the country, call your doctor, or the on-call doctor from your practice group, and have her send a script to an open pharmacy near you. This advice comes with a caveat, however. Insurance won’t cover the cost of your medication(s) if it is already filled at another pharmacy that is closed and cannot reverse the billing. It will take a day or so for them to rectify so that the open pharmacy can bill for the medication. Ask the pharmacist for an emergency supply, typically a day or two worth of medication, so that you have enough until the pharmacy can bill and charge your normal copayment.

In situations like Sarah’s where a lack of medication can lead to catastrophic health consequences, in those worst-case scenarios, go to the nearest emergency room because they can administer your medications directly. Again, there is a price for doing so. But some situations warrant immediate care and there really is no choice.

Now for the advice you already know but may help hearing again anyway. Always have at least a week of your medications on hand. Don’t wait until you have one or two pills in the bottle before calling in a refill. This is especially true if you’re someone with a chronic condition or illness and you need daily medications. If 2017 taught us anything about being prepared, a storm can hit worse than expected and you don’t want to be without medications for an extended period of time.

A final word on options for people who take medications for chronic conditions. Ask your physician in the hospital clinic, whether it be Cancer, MS, HIV/AIDS, Cystic Fibrosis or something else, to use the hospital’s specialty pharmacy. Hospital-owned and managed specialty pharmacies have been around in some places for ten years, but they’re not everywhere yet.

Many people with chronic conditions have experience with mail-order pharmacies that are prescribed by their physicians or nurses. A hospital specialty pharmacy is much different! In a case like Sarah’s, a hospital specialty pharmacy, located inside the hospital, would have known her risk status as a transplant recipient and sent a currier to her home with her medication. Yes, her need for anti-biotics was that serious, as it is for every transplant recipient. If your hospital clinic doesn’t have a specialty pharmacy, see if a clinic in your area does. The best offer services like a patient liaison whose only job is to help you navigate pharmacy needs, insurance, home care, medication pre-approvals, travel to and from the clinic and more.