Managing Medications Part II: Getting the Goods

While it seems simple enough, sometimes managing your prescription inventory can be unexpectedly complicated. Pharmacies have policies, doctor approval is required for renewals, family members need to understand the details, and there’s a lot to learn about the medications themselves. Here are some basics to consider in the acquisition process.

Your Doctor and Prescriptions

Most importantly, be sure you understand the medicines your doctor prescribes for you, how to take them, and what to watch out for. Take notes. Ask questions. Don’t leave until you confidently understand what to expect and what to do. When you get home, spend some time learning about them, and be sure to use reputable sources for your information—major medical web sites (including and medical foundations (like the CCFA) are good sources because their information is vetted by medical professionals. Online forums can be helpful resources—however, while it’s nice to understand the patient’s perspective and learn what other people have experienced, they’re written mostly by people without medical credentials and focus more on anecdotal experience rather than validated studies. That doesn’t mean they’re not useful, you just need to be careful how you treat the information you find there

Whenever possible, have your doctor send new prescriptions directly to your pharmacy. This ensures that the proper orders get there quickly, and it may even be ready by the time you arrive to pick it up. In many cases this all happens in the computer system which makes it easy to coordinate between everyone involved.

Pharmacies can sometimes send in renewal requests for you, but in some cases it’s easier to contact the office yourself. Get to know your doctor’s and pharmacy’s procedures for refilling prescriptions. If you know how to play by their system it can help the process run smoothly.

Some medications have co-pay reimbursement programs where the manufacturer will pay you back for some or all of your prescription expense, or provide a discount card to use at the pharmacy. Generally these are the more expensive drugs like injectibles and other specialty meds. Be sure to ask your doctor and/or pharmacist about these programs and look up the manufacturer on-line to see if they have any such offers. These programs can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket expense.

The Pharmacy

Pharmacists are schooled specifically in the administration and management of medications. They are a great resource for any questions you may have about how the medications work, what to expect from them, and what drug interactions to be concerned about. Take advantage of what they have to offer. Say yes to the consult when they offer it and request one if they don’t, even if you don’t think you have questions. You’re likely to learn something either way.

Use the pharmacy’s refill tools to ease the process. Multiple trips to the store can be a chore, especially when you’re not feeling well. Be sure to ask your pharmacist what options are available.

Many have online refill management tools that track your list of prescriptions, telling you which ones are eligible for refill and which you need the doctor to renew. It often just takes a few mouse clicks to place a refill order.

Some pharmacies have an auto-refill service that queues your order a couple days before it’s expected to run out.

Placing your refill order is sometimes quite easy by phone as well. All I have to do is call the pharmacy and type in the Rx number from my bottle. It calls up my information and a couple prompts later I have meds on order. If you prefer, there’s usually still an option to talk to a real live person too.

It can save money to use a mail-order plan if you have one available. My health plan offers a three month supply for the price of two months when ordered by mail, and from what I gather this is rather common. These prescriptions sometimes require special paperwork, so be sure to acquire the forms ahead of time and bring them with you to the doctor’s appointment. It’s a good idea to carry extra forms so you’re always prepared for a new prescription.

The Bottom Line

Medications may seem like a burden at times but be sure to remember why you take them… ostensibly to feel better and get well. Minimizing the logistical hassles can help to reduce the stressful parts, so you can focus on the good they bring.

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Tags: Supplies/Accessories/Equipment , Tips ('How-Tos') , Treatments

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About the Author

Andrew Tubesing is an acclaimed advocate and humorist on the subject of inflammatory bowel disease.