Health & Wellness

Accessing Prescription Drugs While Social Distancing

By Kandy Cantwell on May, 5 2020
3 minute read

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There have been many changes to our day-to-day world and many of the everyday tasks we took for granted need to be updated accordingly.

For those who need prescription medications, there are new hurdles to jump:

  • How can I obtain my prescriptions, particularly if quarantined or self-isolating?
  • How do I renew my prescription?
  • Why has my usual renewal quantity changed?

In this blog you’ll learn how to get your prescriptions delivered to your home from various trusted sources, as well as the changes to the 90-day supply. 


Prescription Delivery Services


Prior to the pandemic, many pharmacies already had home delivery services for prescription medication. Those who were unwell or had mobility and transportation issues had easy access to their prescriptions. This has not changed. Many pharmacies, however, are now offering delivery for a broader range of customers to keep people socially distanced.

Most of these pharmacies have same-day or next-day options, for both new and refill medications. Using this service during COVID-19 reduces stress and anxiety for anyone concerned about contracting the virus. Keep in mind that, due to provincial regulations, narcotics and controlled substance medication are not available for delivery.

The popularity of mail-order pharmacies has increased substantially in recent years.  Costco has one, and other online pharmacies such as PocketPills, Algo, and Alliance Pharmacy are seeing an increase in traffic. For individuals on multiple medications, these pharmacies work with the client’s doctor(s) and package medications based on when they should be taken throughout the day. Taking the guesswork out of medication management results in greater adherence and effectiveness.

Many group benefit insurers have also partnered with mail-order pharmacies to ensure their plan members have direct-to-door access for the medications they need.  Many of these partnerships are used for medications requiring special authorization from the insurer.


Renewing Prescriptions

Renewing prescriptions can be done quickly via pharmacy, by phone or online. If more medication or a change is required, most provinces have given doctors the ability to have virtual sessions with their patients.


Virtual care vendors, such as Wello, Babylon, Maple, and EQ allow employees to see a doctor from home, as well as request prescriptions (with the exception of narcotics).  Depending on the province of residence, this service may be included with the provincial health plan—or be provided by the employer as a valued benefit, similar to an Employee Assistance Program.

Certain prescriptions require prior authorization from the insurance carrier, with coordination between the carrier, doctor, and pharmacy. Some insurers have slightly adjusted this process as a temporary measure – logging into the insurer’s online portal for more information is recommended.


What’s happened to the 90-day supply?

photo-of-pills-on-container-3873163Pharmacies across Canada have seen a surge in demand for medication during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, pharmacies needed to better manage their medication inventories to protect against potential shortages.  The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) and provincial authorities have recommended limiting prescription refills to a 30-day supply (vs. the typical 90-day) in order to ensure all Canadians have the medication they need.

For group plan members, this may result in a higher number of dispensing fees, with the potential for additional out-of-pocket costs depending on the design of the plan. The Government of Nova Scotia has recognized the financial burden that the extra dispensing fees may place on some citizens and is covering those extra costs for its Pharmacare recipients.

For Canadians in other provinces, these potential costs can be claimed through the employee’s health spending account.

Key Takeaways

Social distancing interferes with our ability to complete routine chores. Fortunately, businesses and governments recognized the potential impact this has on those who need prescription medications. As a result, measures are in place to have prescriptions ordered online and delivered to your door. They’ve also reduced the prescription refill to 30-days to ensure everyone gets the medicine they need.  

Covid-19 Resources

We understand the critical importance of being informed at a time like this. With the situation changing daily, we wanted to provide you with a single source for helpful updates related to Covid-19. 

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