Getting your prescriptions delivered from the pharmacy is a lifesaver, especially if you are managing multiple prescriptions. However, finding the right prescription delivery option can sometimes feel overwhelming.
In this guide, we will provide a basic overview of the different prescription delivery options as well as their pros and cons. And while the right option for you will depend on a number of things (geography, medication, insurance plan, etc.), we hope this guide can serve as a starting point to help get you started!
Let’s dive in.
Prescription delivery generally refers to any pharmacy or 3rd party service that offers to bring prescription medication to your home. At the moment, there are 4 main options for prescription delivery available today including:
- 3rd-Party Prescription Pickup and Delivery Services
- Retail Pharmacy (Brick & Mortar)
- Mail Order Pharmacy (Online Pharmacy)
- On Demand Pharmacy
Let’s take a look at what each of these prescription delivery options has to offer and which one might be right for you!
3rd-Party Prescription Pick Up and Delivery Service
A 3rd party prescription pickup and delivery service is a company like Uber or DoorDash that offers to pick up a prescription and handle delivery for a pharmacy. These companies are not accredited pharmacies and cannot fill your prescriptions directly. In addition, they do not have pharmacists that you can talk to directly.
Instead, they can help connect you with a pharmacy that will fill your prescription. Then, the 3rd party service will handle the last mile delivery of the medication.
How does a 3rd-party prescription pickup and delivery service work?
A 3rd party prescription pickup and delivery service usually requires a few more steps compared to other options. For example, to set up prescription delivery through Uber, you will need to:
- Create an Uber Eats Account
- Create a Nimble Rx Account (Uber’s pharmacy partner)
- Link the accounts through Uber Eats
- Upload health insurance information
- Choose an available pharmacy
- Transfer or send new prescriptions
In addition, some prescriptions cannot be delivered through 3rd party delivery services. For example, Uber does not offer delivery of controlled substances at this time. Furthermore, Uber terms states that “delivery orders for prescriptions paid for in whole or in part by any government healthcare program such as Medicare, Medicaid, or TRICARE are not eligible.”
How much do 3rd-party prescription pickup and delivery services charge?
3rd party prescription pickup and delivery services tend to promote free delivery or $0 delivery charges. However, many of these services charge the pharmacy a fee for each delivery which can get passed through to the customer.
In other words, even if free delivery is promoted, you may still pay a “service fee” for having your prescriptions picked up and delivered. Service fees for Uber and DoorDash generally average between 10-15% of the order subtotal.
3rd-party prescription pickup and delivery services
Overall, there are better options for prescription delivery than using a 3rd party service. Pharmacy is complicated and these services have little to no control over how quickly a prescription is processed which in turn affects delivery times. For example, Uber says the average delivery time can take from 2 hours to 2 days.
Additionally, there is no pharmacist available if you need support, have questions, or encounter problems with your medication delivery.
Retail Pharmacy (Brick & Mortar)
A retail pharmacy is a storefront that predominately fills prescriptions in person. In other words, it is what many of us imagine when we think pharmacy – a place where you go and pick up your medication in person or talk to a pharmacist. A few examples of retail pharmacy include local independent pharmacies and big corporate chains such as Walgreens or CVS.
These companies are accredited pharmacies that have pharmacists you can talk to directly during normal hours of operation. However, most of them will use 3rd party delivery companies to carry out the actual prescription delivery.
The prescription delivery process will vary significantly at independent pharmacies so let’s take a look at how it works at an established pharmacy like CVS or Walgreens.
How does retail pharmacy prescription delivery work?
The process to have prescriptions delivered from a retail pharmacy like CVS or Walgreens is pretty straightforward. If it is a new prescription, your doctor will send it to the pharmacy – likely through fax or ePrescribe.
Once the prescription is processed, the pharmacy will give you a call to pick it up at which point you can say you would like it delivered to your home. Your prescription will then be delivered within 1-3 days, depending on the pharmacy and your location.
How much do retail pharmacies charge for prescription delivery?
Retail pharmacy fees for prescription delivery vary. However, most retail pharmacies seem to charge between $4.99 – $7.99 for 1-3 day delivery at the time of writing. Same day prescription delivery is available at select locations but will be more expensive – costing as much as $20 per delivery in some cases!
Additionally, there are some restrictions on the medications most retail pharmacies will deliver. For example, many retail pharmacies will not offer prescription delivery of controlled substances like Adderall or Oxycontin.
Retail Pharmacy Prescription Delivery
Prescription delivery from a retail pharmacy seems to be a much better option than using 3rd party pickup and delivery services like Uber or DoorDash. However, these pharmacies still leave a lot to be desired.
First, if your prescription is urgent like an antibiotic then waiting 1-3 days for delivery is not realistic. In addition, paying $5 for an expedited delivery might be ok in a pinch, but will add unnecessary costs that add up over time – especially if you are having prescriptions delivered frequently.
But overall, the biggest problem seems to be most of these companies still rely on 3rd party services to carry out the delivery. For example, CVS contracts with a company called Shipt and Instacart for delivery which can cause problems because the pharmacy has little control over delivery logistics.
- What happens if a delivery goes missing?
- How are delays or missing medications handled?
- Who has access to sensitive HIPAA information?
This results in a customer experience that at times can be highly inconsistent. Some medications, such as controlled substances may also be excluded from retail pharmacies that offer prescription delivery.
Does Walgreens deliver prescriptions?
Yes, Walgreens does deliver prescriptions. According to their website, 1-2 day deliver is free while there is a fee for same day prescription delivery. Walgreen’s same day delivery will cost $7.99 or more depending on the location. In addition, certain medications like controlled or refrigerated medications may not be available for delivery.
Does CVS deliver prescriptions?
Yes, CVS does deliver prescriptions. According to their website, 1-2 day delivery is free for certain medications and non-prescription items. For same day delivery of prescription medications, CVS will charge a $7.99 fee for eligible drugs. Certain medications like controlled or refrigerated medications may not be available for delivery.
Mail Order Pharmacy (Online Pharmacy)
A mail order pharmacy is a pharmacy that predominately fills prescriptions online and mails them to the customer’s front door. These pharmacies existed for almost 50 years but came back to the forefront during the pandemic as customers looked for prescription delivery options. Mail order pharmacies fill around 5% of prescriptions with well-known names that include Express Scripts, OptumRx, Caremark, and Amazon PillPack.
These companies are accredited mail order pharmacies that have pharmacists you can talk to over the phone during normal hours of operation. Many of these pharmacies use delivery services like USPS or in certain cases their own delivery fleet (Amazon PillPack).
Let’s jump into how prescription delivery from a mail order pharmacy works.
How does prescription delivery from a mail order pharmacy work?
Getting started with prescription delivery from a mail order pharmacy is difficult at first. However, once you set everything up, refills for the same medication seem to be relatively easy. Here’s how it works with PillPack.
To sign up, you need to go online and create an account. To create a PillPack account, you will need:
- Your list of medications
- Your doctor information
- Any insurance information
- Your payment method
From there, you transfer existing prescriptions or tell your doctor to fax any new prescriptions to PillPack. According to their site, new customers’ first PillPack ships in about 2-4 weeks. Make sure to check with your health insurance provider before you decide to use a mail order pharmacy since some insurance plans may require you to use a specific mail pharmacy.
How much does a mail order pharmacy cost?
A mail order pharmacy will generally provide prescription delivery free of charge. In other words, there is no fee for the delivery but you will still pay for the medication.
In addition, some mail order pharmacies may offer cheaper medication depending on your insurance provider. Always check with your health insurance provider to determine which mail order pharmacies are allowed and verified.
Mail Order Pharmacy Prescription Delivery
Prescription delivery from a mail order pharmacy has been around for decades and still accounts for less than 5% of prescriptions. In other words, it has a number of benefits that are great for some customers but not for others.
For example, delivery times are generally much longer and most rely on a service like USPS which can be an issue if something happens like during the pandemic. In addition, many mail order pharmacies restrict the medications they will mail – controlled medications like Adderall or Hydrocodone are not offered by many mail order pharmacies.
Furthermore, if you need to talk with somebody about your medication, cost, or some other error then good luck! Generally, there will be a single 800 number where customer service is multiple states away trying to troubleshoot an error between your doctor, insurance, USPS, and the customer.
Conversely, mail order pharmacies sometimes offer discounts on prescription copays depending on your insurance and offer a hands off way to receive recurring prescriptions. For some customers, this is all they need which means mail order could be a great option. Ultimately, talk with your doctor and health insurer to decide if mail order pharmacy will fit your individual needs!
On Demand Pharmacy
An on demand pharmacy is a new kind of pharmacy that blends elements of both digital as well as local brick & mortar retail pharmacy operations. These pharmacies are fully accredited and have a local presence just like CVS or Walgreens. In addition, pharmacists are available to chat both over the phone and in person.
However, these pharmacies mostly receive prescriptions online or through an app. Furthermore, the primary means of filling the prescription is free same day delivery by HIPAA-certified pharmacy employees. This integration of local pharmacy operations and delivery logistics is the key difference between on demand pharmacies and retail or mail order pharmacy.
The most well-known on demand pharmacies are Alto Pharmacy, NowRx Pharmacy, Capsule, and Medly.
How does prescription delivery from an on demand pharmacy work?
Using an on demand pharmacy to get prescriptions delivered is relatively simple and straightforward. To transfer a prescription or refill, many of these pharmacies offer an easy-to-use app and/or online form. For example, NowRx offers an online prescription transfer form as well as an app that allows patients to request a transfer in seconds.
For new prescriptions, a doctor can fax or ePrescribe to an on demand pharmacy just like any CVS or Walgreens.
Once the prescription has been processed, the pharmacy will call to collect payment and set up a delivery. Finally, the prescription will be delivered in hours by a HIPAA-certified pharmacy employee.
How much do on demand pharmacies charge for prescription delivery?
On demand pharmacies do not charge a fee for prescription delivery. In other words, free same day prescription delivery is provided complimentary to all customers. You only pay your normal insurance copay.
How is that possible? Simply put, these pharmacies have lower costs.
Since these pharmacies don’t rely on customers walking into their stores, they usually rent smaller, cheaper local spaces. In addition, most use some sort of automation to reduce dispensing costs and increase efficiency. All of these savings and more enable free same day delivery to be offered as a complimentary perk.
On Demand Pharmacy Prescription Delivery
On demand pharmacy prescription delivery combines the best aspects of local retail and mail order pharmacies as well as some additional benefits.
For example, these pharmacies offer a digital-first experience with convenient delivery like mail order while also providing personalized, local, and same-day services like CVS. In addition, on demand pharmacies handle all their own deliveries using HIPAA-certified pharmacy employees which allows them to deliver controlled and refrigerated medications as well as offer free same day delivery.
Ultimately, these companies were built specifically around delivering a more convenient pharmacy experience and maintain some of the highest customer reviews. Talk with your doctor and see if there is an on demand pharmacy available in your area.
Get Prescriptions Delivered: You’ve Got Options
Getting prescriptions delivered can be a lifesaver and there are a number of options depending on your location and health insurance plan. Talk with your doctor to see which prescription delivery options are available near you and how you can learn more about getting started.
If you have questions about how to transfer a prescription for home delivery, check out our blog How To Transfer a Prescription to Another Pharmacy or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.