Understanding the Pharmacy System in the U.S.


Minho Lee | Dec 21, 2023 Health

If you are new to the U.S. you may find the pharmacy system a bit different from what you are used to in your home country. In this blog post, we will explain how the pharmacy system works in the U.S. and what you need to know before, during, and after getting your medications.

What Is a Pharmacy?

A pharmacy is a place where you can get prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs. Prescription drugs are medications that require a written order from a licensed health care provider, such as a doctor or nurse practitioner. Over-the-counter drugs are medications that you can buy without a prescription, such as pain relievers, allergy pills, or cough syrups.

There are different types of pharmacies in the U.S. such as retail pharmacies, mail-order pharmacies, and specialty pharmacies. Retail pharmacies are located in grocery stores, drug stores, or shopping malls. Mail-order pharmacies deliver your medications to your home or office by mail. Specialty pharmacies provide medications for specific conditions, such as cancer, HIV, or diabetes.

How Do I Get a Prescription?

To get a prescription, you need to see a health care provider who can diagnose your condition and prescribe the appropriate medication for you. You can see a health care provider in person or by phone. Some common ways to see a health care provider are:

See a Healthcare Provider:

  • Primary Care Provider: Your PCP is your go-to for routine check-ups, common illnesses, and managing chronic conditions.
  • Urgent Care: For minor injuries and illnesses, urgent care offers quick, walk-in care without an appointment.
  • Telehealth: Convenient option for consultations when distance or travel are barriers.

Choose Your Medication:

  • Generics: Save money! These medications contain the same active ingredients as brand names but often at a fraction of the cost. Discuss with your doctor if generics are suitable for your needs.
  • Brand Names: Sometimes, specific medical conditions or allergies necessitate brand-name medications. Your doctor will guide you based on your individual case.

Pick Up Your Prescription:

  • Choose Your Pharmacy: Opt for an in-network pharmacy for the best insurance coverage. You can also discuss medication availability and cost options with your pharmacist.

Your health care provider will send your prescription electronically to the pharmacy of your choice. You can choose any pharmacy that is in your insurance network and has the medication you need. You can also change your pharmacy at any time, as long as you inform your health care provider and your insurance company.

How Do I Get My Medication?

To get your medication, you need to go to the pharmacy where your prescription was sent. You can either pick up your medication in person, or have it delivered to you by mail. You will need to provide the following information to the pharmacy:

  • Take your medication as prescribed: You should take your medication exactly as directed, at the same time every day, and for the full duration of your treatment. You should not skip, double, or change your doses without consulting your health care provider or pharmacist.
  • Store your medication properly: You should keep your medication in its original container, with the label and the cap securely attached. You should store your medication in a cool, dry, and dark place, away from heat, moisture, and light.
  • Dispose of your medication safely: You should dispose of any unused, expired, or unwanted medication as soon as possible. You should follow the disposal instructions on the medication label or the medication guide or ask your pharmacy or your local waste management agency for the best way to dispose of your medication.
  • Refill your medication on time: You should refill your medication before you run out of it, to avoid missing any doses or interrupting your treatment. You can check the number of refills and the expiration date on your medication label or your receipt. You can also sign up for refill reminders or automatic refills from your pharmacy or use a medication app or a calendar to keep track of your refills. If you need a new prescription, you should contact your health care provider before your medication runs out.

Secure Your Health with ISO Student Health Insurance

As you begin your academic journey in the U.S. prioritize your well-being with ISO Student Health Insurance. Our comprehensive plans cover prescription drugs for injuries or sickness, offering financial support and peace of mind as you navigate the U.S. healthcare system. Choose ISO for confidence and quality care throughout your time in the U.S. Explore our plans for the coverage that suits your needs.

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Navigating the pharmacy system in the U.S. can be confusing. Here's a guide that will walk you through how to navigate pharmacy in the U.S.

About ISO Student Health Insurance

Founded in 1958, ISO prides itself on being the leader in providing international students with affordable insurance plans. Administered by former and current international students, we are able to assist our member with multilingual customer service in Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and more. ISO serves over 3,200 schools/colleges and more than 150,000 insured students every year.

For more information, please visit www.isoa.org and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn.

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