4 myths about online pharmacies, busted
Getting your medication online from the Optum Store may be more convenient than going to a brick-and-mortar store (and it may save you money, too).
You stand in line at your local pharmacy, waiting for a prescription to be filled. Maybe the pharmacist is at lunch, so you have to come back. That night, a question comes up about the medication you picked up earlier, but by then the pharmacy is closed. Annoying, right?
There’s an alternative that saves you the hassle of going to the drugstore: online pharmacies. Yet many consumers don’t take advantage of them. If you’re hesitant about trying this convenient option, read on. We debunk 4 of the biggest myths.
Myth #1: Prescriptions filled online aren’t as safe as those you get in person
The real deal: Not true. “There’s a perception that online pharmacies dispense medications regardless of patient safety, and that is not true,” says Joshua Bartelme, product lead at the Optum Store. “At the Optum Store, a drug utilization review is conducted before every prescription is dispensed, and that includes refills.”
During the utilization review, he explains, the pharmacist reviews the patient’s health history, checking for any drug-to-drug interactions that could occur due to other medications the patient takes.
If there is a medication conflict, the pharmacist reaches out to the patient and to the prescribing physician with their safety concerns.
To fill a single prescription, there are multiple checks in place to ensure patient safety, says Amber Turrentine, PharmD. Turrentine is associate director of Optum Store Business Performance. Before the medicine is shipped, it’s scanned and checked by a licensed pharmacist.
Pharmacy services through the Optum Store are accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) for Digital Pharmacy and the Utilization Review Accreditation Commission (URAC) for Mail Service Pharmacy.
“Accreditation is a process of detailed organizational review by a third party that demonstrates a company’s willingness to meet national standards,” Turrentine says.
Myth #2: Prescriptions bought at a virtual pharmacy take longer to be delivered to your door
The real deal: Some 99% of all the prescriptions filled at the Optum Store are delivered within 5 days, says Bartelme. This goes for new prescriptions as well as prescriptions that are transferred to the Optum Store from a brick-and-mortar pharmacy.
Many prescriptions are delivered in less than 5 days. The Optum Store can ship prescriptions either standard or expedited, which arrive in 2 days or less. There is a flat rate of $7.99 for expedited shipping. If the order is $99 or more, expedited shipping is free.
Another nice feature about filling a prescription at the Optum Store? You can order ahead for yourself and your family members, Bartelme says. “You can consolidate some of that work if you have people in your family who are taking medications.”
Myth #3: Online pharmacies are more expensive
The real deal: You may actually save money. The cost of the medication is typically lower from an online pharmacy than it would be at your local drugstore.
“Ordering prescriptions through the Optum Store can be a lot more affordable because there is much less overhead,” Bartelme explains. “We don’t have 2,000 retail stores that we have to maintain, just our partners’ pharmacy dispensing sites, and there are so many fewer of them. So there is a substantial savings there.”
The Optum Store is open to all, regardless of which insurance carrier you have. Right now, it’s cash only, but it will soon start accepting multiple insurance plans for prescription purchases.
Myth #4: You won’t be able to reach a pharmacist if you have questions about your medication
The real deal: Many consumers think they won’t be able to contact a pharmacist, but the Optum Store has pharmacists available 24/7. “If you have any questions about anything medication-related or health-related, we have coverage for that,” Bartelme says.
You may want to clarify your dose, ask about drug interactions that could occur with other medications you’re taking or ask about side effects.
“Patients take medications around the clock, and questions on how to take them correctly and safely may arise at any time,” Turrentine says. “It’s beneficial for patients to have easy and immediate access to a pharmacist who can answer any questions, decrease the risk of medication error, and avoid unnecessary visits to the hospital or urgent care.”
Besides access to a pharmacist 24/7, the Optum Store provides access to detailed medication information, offers refill and renewal programs to help avoid missing doses of prescribed medications, and helps patients find the best prices available.