Many people, seniors included, are confused about the difference between a mail-order pharmacy and an online pharmacy. You might even hear some people use the terms interchangeably. Typically, a mail-order pharmacy contracts with your prescription insurance plan, and your insurer may also offer incentives to use that pharmacy. Online pharmacies aren't affiliated with your insurance company, and most don't accept any type of insurance, including Medicaid or Medicare.
Most Medicare Part D and traditional retiree insurance plans have a mail-order pharmacy program as part of their prescription package. You probably receive notices from your insurance plan that shopping with the mail-order pharmacy will save you money. While that may be the case, always double check the prices you pay through the mail-order service with those of your local pharmacy. Many plans are now allowing 90-day fills at pharmacies throughout Colorado Springs, CO, so the savings may not be as much as you think. Plus you lose the face-to-face interaction with your pharmacist.
If you decide that mail order is the best choice for you, the following pointers can help you get the best return on your health care dollars.
1. Order in advance. It can take up to two weeks for a prescription to process and arrive at your assisted living apartment from a mail-order pharmacy, especially with prior authorizations, claim denials and delivery service issues. If your doctor prescribes a first-time medication, it's best to get two separate prescriptions, one for the mail-order pharmacy and one for your local pharmacy. That way, you can begin taking the medicine right away while waiting on processing at the mail-order company. Similarly, it's more practical to get prescriptions for acute care, such as antibiotics, pain relief medications and cough syrups at your local pharmacy.
2. Initiate communication. You should receive voice and text messages from your mail-order pharmacy to keep you updated on your prescription status. But it's going to be up to you to pass along medical information, especially if you get some medications at a walk-in pharmacy. Don't hesitate to call in and ask questions about your medicine, either; you have a right to talk to a pharmacist.
3. Watch out for waste. If your doctor discontinues a medication, immediately let the mail-order company know. Otherwise, you may receive another shipment, up to 90-days, of a drug you know longer use.
4. Check your package thoroughly. Once your prescription arrives at ViewPointe assisted living, check your delivery receipt, verifying your name, date of birth and address. Carefully read the entire label on your prescription vial. Many companies switch manufacturers on generic drugs frequently. If so, you should receive a notification that explains, "this is the same medication you've been getting, although color, shape or size may appear different." If you're concerned in any way, call your mail-order pharmacy.
Online pharmacies are popping up all over the internet, and you may have heard family members or other residents in your senior community talk excitedly about what great prices they get through them. These companies may look legitimate, and their prices may be incredibly low, but in many cases, it's buyer beware.
Always verify the license of an online pharmacy before doing business with them, and make sure it's been issued in the United States. The FDA provides quick links to every state's Board of Pharmacy page so you can easily check on companies. The dangers of using a fake online pharmacy are many and include:
- Identity theft
- Computer hacking and malware
- Unsafe products
Once you've investigated the online pharmacy, your research still isn't done. Ask the following questions before submitting an order to help make sure you're receiving genuine medication and products and legal services.
- Is all their medication FDA approved? Products manufactured in pop-up facilities with no set of standards may be of lower quality and sometimes downright dangerous. Although they may contain the correct amount of the active ingredient, the fillers may be unsafe or in the wrong proportion, and the tablet or capsule coating may not dissolve properly. Devices, such as inhalers and pre-filled syringes, may not work correctly, providing too much or too little of the required dose.
- Do they require a legal prescription, and do they limit quantities to amounts prescribed? Watch out for companies that advertise large quantities for low prices.
- Where is their physical location? Look at their contact information for an actual street address, not a P.O. Box.
- What are their rules for controlled substances? The DEA highly regulates controlled drugs, which are assigned numbers from I to V. Be wary of an online pharmacy that is careless about filling prescriptions for controlled drugs.
The bulk of an online pharmacy's business is low-cost generics, over-the-counter medications, diabetic supplies and incontinence aids. Sometimes using a less expensive item is perfectly fine and sometimes you get what you pay for. One alcohol pad may be just as effective as another, while one incontinence product may fit more securely or provide better absorption than another. Seniors who regularly use these items may benefit by giving an online pharmacy a try, but always check prices with your local pharmacy and nearby retail stores first. Many independent and chain pharmacies in Colorado Springs offer free delivery service as well.
Posted on Thu, April 9, 2020
by Shawn Deane