This post is sponsored by HealthBeacon plc.
The specialty medication order and delivery process can be a real headache for those of us living with chronic illness.
As a patient that has been taking specialty medications for ten years, I’ve had my fair share of “specialty drug nightmares”, including the time when my $20,000 biologic medication was delivered to the freezer at the restaurant next door!
Through these headaches I’ve picked up tips and tricks along the way, as have some of the patient advocates I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and I am excited to share them with you!
Set up auto-reminders (or make a note) of when your next injection is due
Life is busy. It can be easy to forget when your next injection is due. A few ideas for staying on track include:
- Setting up auto-reminders (by text, email, or phone call) with your specialty pharmacy
- Making a note in your calendar or phone
- Purchasing and subscribing to an injection management system like the Smart Sharps Bin to track when your next injection is due
Order your prescription ~1 week ahead of scheduled injection date
If your insurance will allow, place your order at least one week ahead of your scheduled injection date. While many specialty pharmacies ship medications overnight, it is my experience that it can take a few days from the order date to shipment, and that’s not including the possibility of unexpected delays due to something like inclement weather or the holidays.
Download the specialty pharmacy app
Many of the specialty pharmacies now have digital apps that make ordering your medication easier.
Make a note of when the prescription expires so you can ask your doc for a prior authorization well in advance
IBD advocate Tina Aswani of Own Your Crohn’s recommends staying on top of when your prescription runs out so that you can begin coordinating a new prior authorization well in advance.
Sometimes prior authorizations can be a challenging hurdle to overcome due to the administrative burden of coordinating with your physician’s office and ensuring your insurance signs off on the medication. Getting a jump start can be a big help down the line.
Make sure your specialty pharmacy has your co-pay assistance card on file
Many of the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture specialty drugs offer co-pay assistance programs. See if your medication has one by using this free medication assistance tool.
When you first get set up with your specialty pharmacy, be sure that they have your co-pay assistance card on file to help bring down your out-of-pocket costs.
Talk contingency plans with specialty pharmacy ahead of delivery
Rare + IBD Advocate Aaron Blocker generally recommends chatting with your specialty pharmacy ahead of time to ask them what the plan is if the delivery is late or doesn’t arrive.
Pick a “signature” option that works best for you
For me personally, requesting a signature upon delivery is particularly important as I live in the middle of a busy city in an apartment complex. Requesting a signature ensures that my medication is handed only to me and not to someone else. It also helps ensure my medication doesn’t get left outside my door where it could be stolen or render the medication useless because of an extreme temperature change.
On the other hand, IBD patient advocate Natalie Hayden of Lights Camera Crohn’s goes for “no signature required” approach so she doesn’t have to worry about being home or possibly missing the delivery. She always writes the delivery day in her planner so she knows to check for a package and get it in the fridge ASAP.
Request a delivery time window
Before I learned that I could request a specific delivery window (i.e. a set number of hours during which my medication would be delivered), I would sometimes spend full days waiting near the buzzer of my apartment -- afraid to even use the restroom -- because I might miss the delivery of my medication. I didn’t want it to be left on the street. I also didn’t want it to end up back at the shipment warehouse knowing that there is a finite window of time to get the injection into my temperature-controlled refrigerator.
If your specialty pharmacy doesn’t give you a specific delivery window (and there is no regular time your delivery service drops by everyday), I highly recommend requesting a specific delivery window.
Sign up for delivery tracking
IBD advocate Lori Plung’s advice is to sign up for delivery tracking as many courier services offer text or email alerts. You can keep an eye on the estimated delivery time so that you can be sure not to miss it and ensure it doesn't sit outside all day.
Alternatives to home delivery
Don’t feel comfortable having your specialty medications delivered to your home? Consider some of these alternatives recommended by other IBD advocates:
- IBD advocate Ellen Falk suggests seeing if your local pharmacy will accept specialty medication delivery. They check-in and refrigerate the medication and can send you text alerts. This can help ensure safe and secure delivery if you can’t be home.
- IBD advocate Jenny Sharrick suggests having it delivered to your place of work if they have a fridge
- Chat with your specialist’s office. Sometimes you can have your meds shipped there and pick it up.
Prepare for cumbersome packaging
The packaging for such a small syringe or autoinjector is often incredibly cumbersome. Patient advocate Amber Tresca of About IBD recommends being prepared for this as the discarded packaging can pile up quickly. Leave extra space in your trash and recycling the week of delivery!
Don’t forget that to follow a proper sharps disposal process, you can’t throw your medication in the trash! It must go in a sharps container.
When all else fails, take it to social media
If you are having a difficult time reaching customer service for your specialty pharmacy or you are dealing with an emergent situation (like you got a notification your medication was delivered but it is nowhere to be seen), take it to social media! I find healthcare organizations have folks on call who may respond to you right away if you message them directly or tag them in a post.
And if your medication doesn’t arrive in time…
If your medication doesn’t arrive on time and the pharmacy can’t get the meds to you quickly enough for you to stay on track with your medication, call your doctor’s office. They may have a few extra doses on hand for emergency situations.
For many of us, specialty medications are our lifeline. Ensuring the safe and efficient order and delivery of them is mission critical. I hope these tips will help ease the administrative burden of the often arduous process!
Lilly has served as an advocate for over a decade, transitioning into patient advocacy after she was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases. As the Founder and Principal at Patient Authentic, Lilly Stairs’ work sits at the intersection of marketing and patient engagement where she helps healthcare organizations build programs that empower and educate patients. She regularly lends her expertise via speaking engagements from conferences to Capitol Hill, serves as the Vice Chair of the Board for the Autoimmune Association, and is a Lead Patient Advisor to several major pharmaceutical and health tech companies.
*Content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice. Always consult and follow the instructions of your healthcare provider and any patient information leaflet for your medicine.
This post is sponsored by HealthBeacon plc and the author was compensated. The author does not use Smart Sharps Bin. All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of HealthBeacon plc or Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc.