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What to Consider Before Having Your Prescriptions Delivered

young man in a mask handing off prescription delivery to woman standing in her doorway

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Key Takeaways

  • Prescription deliveries are a viable option for picking up medication and limiting contact with others. They also increase accessibility to people who may have trouble getting out of the house because of a disability.
  • Opting for a delivery service loses valuable face-to-face communication with a pharmacist that can address immediate concerns.
  •  Not every medicine may be eligible or recommended for delivery.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the number of things we do in person—whether that's work and school or doctor's appointments and errands. As companies like Uber expand the scope of delivery services, it's becoming easier to make picking up your prescription a remote activity too.

Even prior to the pandemic, people were happily shifting away from traditional pharmacy visits. A 2017 survey by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield found 94% of adults in Upstate New York were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with prescription home delivery. About 70% of respondents cited using delivery services for the convenience.

There are many pros, but there are also some cons to making the jump to a prescription delivery service. Here's what you need to know.

Benefits of Prescription Delivery

Amanda Epp, MBA, the CEO of prescription delivery service ScriptDrop, tells Verywell that prescription deliveries help increase accessibility to people that have trouble getting their prescriptions.

“People who may live in pharmacy ‘deserts,’ or very rural areas, may not have the means or access to transportation compared to those who live in more populated, urban areas, and can benefit from prescription delivery from their local pharmacy," she says. "We see a lot of delivery volume for older adults, and it’s a great way to ensure [prescription] adherence.”

ScriptDrop recently announced a collaboration with Uber to expand prescription deliveries in 27 states, including New York, California, and Florida.

Expanding with couriers such as Uber may help companies avoid the inconvenience of mail delays from the post office. Budget cuts to the United States Postal Service have delayed medicine delivery for weeks.

How Does It Work?

Users order medications from their local pharmacy through the Uber Eats app.

Who Should Consider Prescription Deliveries?

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise and new variants circulate, limiting contact with people outside of your household continues to be crucial. Epp says prescription deliveries, such as those offered by her company, can offer no-contact delivery directly to your doorstep.

This helps people who have trouble leaving home, whether that's because of a disability or due to being high-risk for COVID-19 infection, Virginia Lemay, PharmD, a licensed pharmacist and Clinical Associate Professor at The University of Rhode Island's College of Pharmacy, tells Verywell, adding older adults are more likely to fall into this category.

“Adherence with medication is critically important, so we don't want people to be without their medication,” she says.

While prescription deliveries have been available for years, Lemay says she's seen an uptick in younger people taking advantage of these services during the pandemic, especially individuals with immunocompromising conditions.

Downsides of Prescription Delivery

One major drawback of having medication delivered is losing face-to-face interaction with a pharmacist. Lemay says older adults tend to have more comorbidities and, as a result, more medications, making communication with a pharmacist even more vital.

“Talking to a pharmacist gives an opportunity for education and counseling. While we can get around that through telephonically, it’s a different experience,” she says.

Patients may feel more connected with a face-to-face conversation, which can help with treatment care. For example, Lemay says a pharmacist would be able to do a visual assessment of a patient breathing heavily and evaluate whether the shortness of breath may indicate something more serious. With a telephone call, you lose the physical evaluation of the person.

Although Lemay emphasizes telehealth through a prescription delivery service isn’t a bad option, it does require more effort.

Another potential disadvantage to prescription delivery is not every medicine is eligible for the service. Lemay and Epp agree controlled substances and temperature-controlled medications—such as insulin for diabetes—may not qualify for delivery.

“If we do end up delivering something that needs to be refrigerated, that would require extra steps to make sure someone is there to receive it and that they can quickly get that into their refrigerator,” Lemay says.

Accessibility and convenience come at a cost. While some delivery services offer free shipping, others don’t. Out-of-pocket fees that can add up over time. Lemay says health insurance is unlikely to cover delivery expenses.

What This Means For You

Prescription deliveries are a popular alternative to the traditional method of picking up medication at your local pharmacy. Prescription delivery services limit the amount of contact with a person outside your household and decrease your risk of exposure to COVID-19. However, it’s crucial to continue communicating any questions or concerns to your pharmacist. You should also consult a pharmacist or prescribing physician about whether your medication is eligible or recommended for delivery.

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  1. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Prescription home delivery survey highlights: a survey of upstate New York, 2017. Updated March 23, 2017.