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What Pharmacies Are Doing During the Crisis

By Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD

April 15, 2020


Many people have questions and uncertainties during the COVID-19 crisis. Will my pharmacy have my medication? Will I be able to pick up my medicine at my pharmacy? Will my pharmacy close? How will I get my medications if I am in quarantine? Rest assured that pharmacies are essential businesses, and they will likely remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic with pharmacists available to address your concerns.

Community pharmacies are in the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis and are often the closest point of medical contact that patients have. To support the community during such a vulnerable time, pharmacies have taken measures to ensure that patients get the care they need.

Free delivery

As people are asked to stay home and shelter in place, many pharmacies are offering to deliver medications and other over-the-counter items free of charge. Additionally, many pharmacies have drive-through windows where you can pick up your prescriptions and, in some cases, select over-the-counter items. You can also take advantage of the pharmacy’s website for online shopping of over-the-counter items.

The following pharmacies offer free delivery:

Check with a pharmacy near you for delivery options.

Senior shopping hours

Many pharmacies have taken extra measures to ensure that seniors and those most vulnerable during the COVID-19 outbreak are protected if they need to visit the pharmacy. The following pharmacies have designated senior shopping hours:

  • CVS: Designated vulnerable/at-risk shopping hours are every Wednesday between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. This time is reserved for those ages 60 and over, pregnant women, and anyone deemed vulnerable or at-risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Publix: Publix pharmacies are open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. for people ages 65 and over.
  • Rite Aid: Rite Aid stores have reserved every weekday morning between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. for those with weakened immune systems or those who are age 65 and over.
  • Walgreens: Walgreens stores are open every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. to seniors, their caregivers, and immediate family members.

90-day supplies and early fills

Retailers, including Rite Aid and CVS, are working with insurance companies to provide 90-day supplies of your medications and early fill approvals on some prescriptions. If your insurance does not cover your medication, you can use a free Rx savings card for the best price.

Expanded cleaning schedules and plexiglass barriers

To minimize the spread of virus between customers and employees, pharmacies are adopting rigorous cleaning regimens. Countertops and other high-touch areas are cleaned and disinfected on a regular schedule. Many retailers are also installing plexiglass barriers to protect customers and employees from droplets generated through sneezing or coughing.

Touchless pay and fewer signatures

High-touch items like pens and PIN pads carry the potential to spread germs from one user to another. Publix and Walgreens use touchless pay technology, which eliminates the need to touch card readers or PIN pads. CVS supports contactless mobile payments, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. In addition, CVS now requires fewer signatures on the PIN pads when you pick up your prescriptions.

Drive-through COVID-19 testing

Walgreens and CVS have each opened at least one drive-through COVID-19 testing site and intend to open more. Walgreens opened its first site in Chicago and has plans to open 15 more locations across seven states. New testing locations will be in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas. Testing will be free to patients who meet the qualifications specified by the CDC.

CVS currently has sites open in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Georgia and has plans to open more locations. Testing is free for those who meet CDC testing qualifications.

Walgreens and CVS both use the new Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test, which delivers positive results in five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes.

Telemedicine visits

To minimize the spread of any contagious illness, CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens offer telemedicine visits from the comfort of your home.

Through CVS Health’s Minute Clinic, you can access a healthcare provider 24 hours a day and seven days a week via a video visit. The cost per visit is $59, but Aetna members can use Teladoc free of charge through June 4, 2020.

Rite Aid recently launched RediClinic@Home video visits, which are available in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Most insurance plans are accepted, or the cost is $49 per visit.

Walgreens uses MDLIVE to provide telehealth visits with a doctor 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The cost per visit is $75.

Staying home and staying safe

The bottom line to staying safe and flattening the curve during the COVID-19 crisis is to stay home when going out is not essential. Fortunately, pharmacies near you are taking measures to make it easier for you to stay home. You can continue to compare prescription prices from your phone, laptop, or tablet at home and use prescription discount cards to obtain the lowest prescription price.

Remember that you can use prescription savings cards whether you have your prescriptions delivered to your home or you pick them up at your pharmacy’s drive-through window.

Rosanna Sutherby is a freelance medical writer who has been a practicing pharmacist in her community for close to 20 years. She obtained her Doctor of Pharmacy from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. She utilizes her clinical training in the pharmacy, where she helps patients manage disease states such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and many others. Dr. Sutherby reviews and recommends drug regimens based on patients’ concurrent conditions and potential drug interactions.


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