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08:09 AM

Mail-Order Prescriptions Delayed? Here’s What to Do.

A Cedars-Sinai Clinical Pharmacist Advises Patients on Ensuring They Have the Medicines They Need

Receiving mail-order prescriptions on time is critical during the ongoing pandemic, as older adults and people with chronic conditions are avoiding leaving their homes.

That was the focus of recent hearings in the U.S. Senate after two senators said their investigation found that average delivery times for prescription drugs recently increased 18% to 32% percent. And delays aren't just a matter of convenience. Many medications are temperature sensitive and patients may require them immediately.

“This is a critical issue for patients whose health depends on these medications,” said Nicha Tantipinichwong, PharmD, a clinical geriatric pharmacist at Cedars-Sinai.

So, what can patients do to ensure they have the medications they need?

“My top recommendation is to order your refills early,” said Tantipinichwong. “Now is not the time to wait until the very last minute. If you know you will need a refill, place the order a minimum of two weeks early.”

When patients refill a prescription online, they should pay attention if they get a message that the Postal Service is experiencing delays, Tantipinichwong said. Then patients can decide if they want to pay extra to use a different shipping method or receive next-day delivery.

“There may be a slightly higher cost associated with these shipping services, but it may bring you greater peace of mind,” she said.

But even if you order in advance or pay for an alternative shipping method, there still can be hiccups with your delivery. That is where support from your local pharmacy can come in, Tantipinichwong said.

“Your local pharmacy and pharmacist are here to advocate on your behalf,” Tantipinichwong said. “There are many ways they can jump in to ensure you get the medications you need.”

One of the ways a pharmacist can advocate is by offering a temporary fill, or a bridge prescription. A bridge prescription is an order for a limited supply of medication – usually enough for 15 to 30 days – that will cover your needs until your original prescription arrives. The local pharmacy may still need a prescription from your doctor’s office, or they can transfer a prescription from the mail-order pharmacy.

To request a bridge prescription, Tantipinichwong says to call your local pharmacy and request an “override mail service.” This will allow the local pharmacy to process a temporary refill through your insurance provider.

“It’s our duty to ensure patients receive the best care and service, which includes helping get them the medications they need to remain healthy and well,” Tantipinichwong said.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Ask a Pharmacist: Cedars-Sinai's Rita Shane