Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
Published 6:01 a.m. ET Sept. 3, 2020 | Updated 3:10 p.m. ET Sept. 3, 2020
The U.S. Postal Service is facing record demand because of COVID-19 and the upcoming election. Does it have the funds to rise to the occasion?
More Americans get their medications delivered to their homes instead of picking them up at a hospital or pharmacy to avoid exposure to COVID-19, the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2.
As a surge in deliveries strains the system and the Trump administration opposes additional funding for the U.S. Postal Service, some patients report delays in receiving their medications.
An Ipsos poll found one in five Americans got medication through the mail in the past week. Out of that group, one in four – or 5% of all Americans – experienced a delay or nondelivery.
“I think with the COVID pandemic … we’ve seen an increased interest in mailing and delivering medication,” said Joe Gonzaga, director of retail pharmacy services at West Virginia University Medicine. “Because of the demand, there’s a delay because there’s so many prescriptions that need to get mailed out.”
West Virginia has an aging population living in mostly rural areas and is the third-most-reliant state on mail-order prescriptions in the country, according to data from before the pandemic collected by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Heidi Polek, a registered pharmacist and strategic program manager at health care tech company DrFirst, said prescription delays were an issue before the coronavirus pandemic. If it’s gotten worse, she’s worried these delays could harm patients.
“It may not sound like a lot, but even one to two missed doses can really have an impact, especially on medical conditions such as diabetes and heart diseases,” she said. “That would be the detriment, that they miss a dose and they’re not getting the effectiveness of their therapy.”
Gonzaga said pharmacies have had to rely on multiple methods of delivery such as FedEx, UPS and even their own courier service as a last resort. They reach out to their patients when they see a refill coming up.
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Health care providers encourage patients to be proactive about their health if their prescription delivery is delayed. Here’s what they can do:
•Call their pharmacy: Whether it’s a community or mail-order pharmacy, experts suggest calling right away to find out the status of a prescription. If it’s been filled and on its way, some pharmacies can work with a patient’s doctor and insurance company to sell a limited supply until the medications arrive.
•Call their doctor: If patients are unable to get a limited supply from their pharmacy, where they would probably have to pay in cash, their doctor could have samples of that medication to take while waiting for the order to arrive.
•Call their insurance company: Before a prescription is delayed, patients should find out if they can be prescribed a 90-day supply of the medication so they don’t have to order a refill every month. They should find out the earliest they can order a refill and call the pharmacy before their medications run out. Most insurance companies allow patients to refill their prescription seven to 10 days in advance.
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.
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