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Here’s How to Get Your Medications (While Minimizing Your Exposure Risk)

A small toy shopping cart filled with pills against a blue background.

Popping down to the local pharmacy to grab your medications when you need them is a routine as old as, well, pharmacies themselves. But with the push for social distancing in the face of a global pandemic, it’s smart to take these steps to get your pills while minimizing your risk.

Social distancing is an effective way to avoid unnecessary exposure to any pathogens, but especially the coronavirus currently driving a global pandemic.

It’s all well and good to say, “Go straight home after work and sit around watching Netflix” or even, “Don’t even come into work, stay home.” But people need medication: both their regular prescriptions and restocks on day-to-day OTC medications. So what do you do?

Here’s a simple breakdown of how you can get the medication you need without going to the place—your friendly local pharmacy—that will inevitably have a high concentration of ill people. Let’s work from the option with the least exposure risk to the greatest.

Sign Up for Mail-Order Home Delivery

At my house, we recently—due mostly to how insistent our insurance company was about it—switched over to all mail-order prescriptions. It took a trivial amount of effort to set up and not only did we save a bunch of money on the cost of the medications, but you save on co-pay fees, too. Because the orders are filled in 90- to 120-day batches, we now pay a single co-pay per prescription every quarter or so, instead of every month.

That’s a lot of savings, and the prescriptions are delivered right to our door—so there’s a very minimal exposure risk.

A mail-order pharmacy won’t ship you things like Pedialyte or cough syrup, but those things can also be ordered online easily from a variety of places like Amazon.

Use a Pharmacy That Offers Local Delivery

Most major chain pharmacies do the kind of mail-order delivery we mention above, and some offer local delivery where a person will deliver a prescription filled at your local pharmacy to your home.

Since the spring of last year, for example, CVS has offered same-day delivery of both prescriptions and in-store items. You can place a refill order, request extras like cough medicine, and then receive the items right at your front door within three hours.

Use the Drive-Through or Curbside Pickup

If your pharmacy has a drive-through, and most do, take advantage of it. Yes, you still have to go to the pharmacy in person, but you’ll have less exposure than if you went inside the building and stood in line.

Some pharmacies have curbside service. While rarer than the more standard drive-through lane, it’s likely we’ll see more curbside service going forward because it decreases the number of sick people entering the main building. Call ahead to see if your pharmacy offers this.

Finally, we have one last time- and money-saving tip for you, whether you pick up the prescription from the pharmacy counter or not. The tip is especially useful for getting your medication via delivery: Ask your doctor for a prescription for OTC medications. Very few pharmacies will sell you non-prescription items through the drive-through. With a doctor’s script for the everyday OTC medications you take, however—like your heartburn pills—you can get the prescription filled by the pharmacy and pick it up right at the drive-through.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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