With the new coronavirus pandemic caused by COVID-19 dominating the news, people worldwide are stockpiling necessities. As some store shelves run bare of toilet paper and cleaning supplies, prescription medications may be far from mind in your preparations.
However, public health experts are advising the most vulnerable people – including those who are 65 and older – to stock up on prescription medications so that they are prepared to shelter in place for an extended period.
Indeed, with a standard quarantine period of fourteen (14) days, a good rule of thumb is to have a two weeks worth of necessary supplies, including prescription drugs.
Some experts, including Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommend a larger reserve of prescription drugs – at least a month or more – so that vulnerable people can keep out of doctor’s offices and minimize their risk of infection.
How does this advice work with the rules and regulations regarding prescription drug refills?
In light of the current global situation, some insurance companies have pledged to waive refill limits on “maintenance medication” prescriptions. There are also steps that you can take to obtain a larger reserve of critical medications.
You should talk to your doctor about increasing your prescriptions from a 30-day to a 90-day supply. If you can obtain such a prescription, you can then simply fill your new, larger prescription at the pharmacy.
Another option is to contact your prescription drug plan and explain your personal situation. Your plan may be able to approve an early refill for your prescription with your pharmacy. This option may not be available for controlled substances, such as painkillers. If you don’t succeed on your first try, don’t be timid. Follow up with your insurer, advocate for yourself, and seek to escalate your request to someone with greater authority if you are initially denied access to a larger supply of life saving medications.
If none of these tactics prove effective, you may be able to practice social distancing by filling your prescriptions through a mail order service. While this option will not provide you with a larger supply, it will permit you from refilling prescriptions from home.
For seniors living in New York State where delivery options are widely available in the most populous areas, stocking up may not be as critical as those living in more rural areas. CVS pharmacy has agreed to waive home delivery fees for prescription medications.
Finally, prescription medications are not the only ones that you should keep a supply of. Over the counter medications, both for guarding against infection and for addressing symptoms should you become infected, are important to keep in stock. Vitamins and supplements such as vitamin C and zinc bolster the immune system and can help guard against infections. As always, you should talk to your doctor or pharmacist about potential adverse interactions that may occur between over the counter and prescription medications.
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