Does Your Pill Bottle Talk?

 

Pill bottles, eye drops a tube and big bottles all have unreadable print labels. Only a little bottle with a big letter A on yellow tape has home made information on it.
Pill bottles, eye drops a tube and big bottles all have unreadable print labels. Only a little bottle with a big letter A on yellow tape has home made information on it.

 

After Walgreens pharmacies launched a new Talking Pill Reminder last month, here is the first of two blog posts about talking labels on your medications.  This post tells you about the pharmacies that supply talking prescription devices and the pharmacies that do not. And next week’s post will describe the advantages and drawbacks of the different talking pill labels, also called talking prescriptions.

Having the label on your medication accessible to you is very important. A couple of years ago one of my clients had several pills in an unlabeled container. He swallowed the lot and had to have his stomach pumped!

Talking prescriptions suit many people with vision loss. The small print curving round the sides of small bottles can be difficult to read even with fairly good sight. And these labels contain such a lot of important information.  The Rx (prescription) number, the dosage, the expiration date, the number of refills and sometimes the active ingredients too.

Before you can get a label that talks, you have to have a pharmacy that offers this important service.  Health Insurance plans generally allow you to choose any local pharmacy for your prescriptions, but tell you which mail order pharmacy you must use if you want to get the savings that ordering by mail can bring.

For instance, my prescriptions along with the prescriptions of millions of other seniors come through United Health. United Health Insurance is the biggest health insurance company in the US, and their mail-order pharmacy is called OptumRx. Optum does not offer talking prescriptions to people who can’t read print (though braille labels are available.) This means that I , and maybe you too, cannot have talking medication labels and get the savings that repeat prescriptions from mail order pharmacies usually offer.

In the Food & Drug Safety Act of 2012 pharmacies aren’t forced to supply prescriptions in accessible format if it creates a financial burden. It’s hard to believe that the biggest health insurance company is too financially strapped to supply talking labels for its disabled customers. Pharmacies at Target, Rite-Aid and Costco also do not provide talking medication labels.

 

Since the Act was passed, three big pharmacies have stepped up to the challenge.

Walmart and CVS offer talking prescriptions to their mail order customers. More recently Walmart began offering this service in 36 of their retail pharmacies and intend to add more. Walgreens pharmacies are now offering a different talking device at all their mail order and retail stores.  Their device is called a reminder, and may not hold all the detail you need. But I haven’t tried one out yet.

Next week: 3 ways to have your medications talk to you.

 

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