Social distancing is one of the only measures that governments and leaders around the world have consistently recommended during the coronavirus pandemic. Isolation is hard enough as it is, but there's one thing that's making it even more difficult for millions of people: Obtaining medications.
Once an everyday errand like any other, the simple act of getting medicine is now surrounded by confusion. What if your pharmacy is closed? What if there's a drug shortage? How are you supposed to socially distance and pick up your medications? Find the answers to all those questions and more below.
Whether you're under a shelter-in-place order or voluntarily practicing social distancing, the coronavirus pandemic can present a number of challenges when trying to get medications. Here's how to deal with the hurdles you may encounter:
- If your refills only last for 30 days, consider switching to a 60- or 90-day supply to reduce the number of times you need to get refills. Simply tell your pharmacist that you want to go longer between refills, and they'll tell you if they require a doctor's approval or not. Depending on the state you live in, a doctor's approval may not be needed. Also remember that you can go online to stock up. Reputable online pharmacies and pharmacy referral services like My Drug Center may allow you to purchase up to a 90-day supply of any medication.
- If there's a medication shortage for one of your prescriptions, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about switching from one manufacturer to another or switching from brand-name to generic. If your pharmacist switched manufacturers without prior notice and you're concerned about your medication's new appearance or packaging, use the National Library of Medicine's Pillbox service to identify a pill and ensure that it's what you should be taking.
- If your insurance plan is limiting the quantity of medication you can get, contact your insurance provider, explain the situation, and ask for a quantity limit exception. If your provider is reluctant to make an exception, ask your pharmacist or doctor to contact them on your behalf. In the event that your insurance company no longer covers your prescription at all, you can either pay full price at a local pharmacy or order your medications online from verified international pharmacies or pharmacy referral services.
- If you can't contact your doctor for refills: Research your state's emergency prescription refill laws. In Ohio, for instance, Kevin's Law allows pharmacists to provide up to a 30-day supply of life-saving medications without a doctor's approval.  To see if your state has enacted any new measures to provide patients with emergency refills, check the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations. If no such laws or measures are in place where you live, you can always try explaining your situation to a pharmacist — just be sure to bring either your prescription or a bottle of your medication that's affixed with prescription information.
There are multiple ways to get the medication you need while still staying safe. Here are a few of the most effective:
- Order your medications online: One of the safest ways to get your medications without risking infection is to order your medications from a verified online pharmacy or pharmacy referral service. Doing so can help you maintain social distancing. And if you order from a website that obtains medications from verified international pharmacies, you can even save money on your prescriptions. If you want to keep getting medications from your current pharmacy, contact them and ask if they offer mail-order services. However, keep in mind that they may be out of stock or be unable to ship prescriptions via mail.
- Order refills ahead of time: If you're getting your prescriptions from an online pharmacy or pharmacy referral service, be sure to take shipping time into account to avoid running out. If you must go into a pharmacy, limit the amount of time you spend around other people and call in your medication refills ahead of time.
- Practice good hygiene: If you have no choice but to visit a pharmacy in-person, remember to follow the CDC's COVID-19 prevention guidelines. These include cleaning your hands often, staying six feet away from other people, wearing a cloth face mask that covers your mouth and nose, covering coughs and sneezes and avoiding touching your face. If possible, only go to the pharmacy during its least-crowded hours of the day.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is both stressful and frustrating, getting your medications doesn't have to be, too. With the right strategies, you can get the drugs you need quickly, safely and seamlessly.
The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.