A Good Change

Walking, wearing my wedding ring, and being able to swallow easily are things that I used to take for granted.  No more.  Thanks to an immune system that turned on me, I realize just how fragile life is, and how quickly things can change.

With a speedy diagnosis, which led to multiple prescriptions, my swelling is down.  I can wear my rings again (most of the time).  I can swallow and don’t feel like I’m choking.  I can get out of bed in the morning without yelping in pain.  The results of those Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs are fantastic!

Every morning I eat breakfast and take my pills (four of them).  Mid-day I’m not hungry, but grab a bite to eat so that I can take my pills (four more).  Then in the evening, I fix supper and take five more pills.  As if that’s not enough, I take a omeprazole at bedtime to (I hope) prevent all those other pills from eating a hole in my stomach.

Tuesdays are special.  When I get up in the morning, I inject my Enbrel.  At bedtime I swallow my eight methotrexate pills, then sleep through the dizzying side-effects.  Those bonus meds on Tuesdays have made a huge difference in how I can function in my life.

Those drugs don’t grow on trees, though.  I can’t just walk out to the garden for them like I can apples or sage.  Every month I have to journey to the pharmacy.  Every month I would come home and write a rant about how aggravating it was to deal with my pharmacy.  Some of those rants I posted, some I deleted, and some still sit in my drafts folder.  I would never do business with any other company that frustrated me as much as the pharmacy did, but the meds help a lot so I figured that dealing with the pharmacy was part of the price I had to pay to feel better.

The more I thought about it, though, I decided that I didn’t have to be stuck with that particular pharmacy.  There are many others.  Maybe another one would be better.  I started looking around, observing pharmacies in the area.  I talked to friends to find out where they get their prescriptions, and their reasons for liking/disliking their pharmacy of choice.  I even asked one of the pharmacist bloggers for tips (thanks PC).

A few months ago I finally made the switch.  What a difference!

  • 21 miles closer to my house (but nowhere near my doctor’s office)
  • refills can be ordered online
  • two of the prescriptions cost less than at the old pharmacy
  • they remember to send the Enbrel charge to the program that reduces my co-pay
  • they promptly contact my doctor and refill my meds (instead of losing the faxed authorization from my rheumy)
  • my meds are ready and accurate when I pick them up

It’s amazing to have this work the way it should.  When I have five days left on my prescriptions, I log on to the pharmacy’s website to order refills.  A day or two later I go pick them up.  Everything is accurate.  No hassles.

I should have changed a long time ago.

Nice!

A while back, a pharmacist where I filled my prescriptions went out of her way to do a very nice thing.  At the time, I was contemplating switching to a pharmacy closer to my home, but that little (big) act of kindness kept my business at that store longer than I intended.

Without going into tons of detail, the pharmacy tried to phone me, but the call wouldn’t go through.  For some reason the pharmacy’s telephone system won’t let them call a different area code.  How stupid is that?  Pharmacists can be trusted to work with money and lots of expensive medications, but they can’t be trusted to call patients about their prescriptions because it might run up the corporate phone bill?

Since it’s not a long distance call, just a different area code, it’s an incredibly stupid policy.

Anyhow, after trying all morning and finally figuring out that it was the phone system’s problem and the call would never go through, the pharmacist used her personal cell phone to call me when she took her lunch break.  She didn’t say she was on her lunch break, but it’s easy enough to look at the clock and figure that one out; I know when the pharmacy closes for lunch.  It was really nice of her to follow up instead of just shrugging it off and saying that they’d tried to call but couldn’t get through.

I’d send a thank-you note, but she doesn’t usually work at that store and I didn’t get her name.  Belated thank you to that very helpful pharmacist.

How much?!

It just shouldn’t be hard to get a refill on the medicines I’m taking:

  • phone the pharmacy to refill prescriptions
  • show up the next day to pick up refills
  • pay

Simple, right?

Note that this is about my old pharmacy, not the new one.  For quite a while the pharmacy had been having difficulties, which is why I never trust the pharmacy, and sometimes I hate my pharmacy.  Between the distance and the frustrations I had dealing with them, I’ve wanted to switch for quite a while.  Almost every month I’d come home and write another rant about what had gone wrong – but usually leave it in my draft folder.

Once I phoned on a Monday morning, spent ten minutes punching prescription numbers into the automated system, and expected things to be ready the following day.  There was certainly no reason that my refills shouldn’t have been ready, but none of my medicine was ready when I attempted to get my order on Thursday.  None of them!  The pharmacist was as puzzled as I was; the order was there, it just hadn’t been filled.  They were out of one of the meds, so the tech had decided not to fill anything (and not make sure the missing med was ordered, and not notify me, either).  I had to drive an extra fifty miles the following day to try again (after calling first).

The next month I phoned to verify that my meds were ready before making the drive to town.  I try not to bother them with phone calls because I know they’re busy, but they kinda brought it on themselves.  Good thing I called, too, because they were still waiting for the refill approval from my rheumy.  How enlightening, when I phoned the doctor’s office, to discover that the approval had been done a couple days earlier.  It wasn’t a case of the pharmacy’s word against the doctor’s office.  After faxing back to the pharmacy, the nurse followed their office policy and filed the fax confirmation in my chart (apparently some pharmacies have a reputation).  I’m sure (from reading pharmacy blogs) that sometimes the doctor’s office doesn’t get back to the pharmacy in a timely manner, but not this time.  The screw-up was entirely on the pharmacy’s end.

Then there was the time my husband agreed to save me the driving and stopped at the pharmacy for me when he was in town.  He’d gone to the pharmacy for me once before and they overcharged him, so I sent him a very clear list:

Image his surprise when the total rang up at $102!  They hadn’t run the Enbrel card (it seems to depend on which tech is working whether or not that gets done).  They fixed the Enbrel, but nothing else. Rather than figure out why it cost so much (since it had already taken too long), my husband paid $45 for something that should have cost $5. 

That is highway robbery.  My lowest drug co-pay is $10.  The only time a prescription costs me less than $10 is if the drug costs the pharmacy less than $10 and they can still turn a profit charging less.  According to the pharmacy, the insurance company, and the plan administrator, the pharmacy is still entitled to the full $10, but they have the option of passing the savings along to patients.  This means, unless I’ve completely lost my mind (and it’s not mtx day, so I don’t think so), that the pharmacy can make a profit by charging $5.10 for feldene, but they gouge an extra $40 out of people who don’t have insurance.

 If we ever lose our insurance, you can bet I’ll be shopping around for my meds based on price!

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I learned later that it was one day too early for one of the refills – on the day I phoned, not the day it was picked it up!