How to get a prescription online with telemedicine — and have medication delivered to you

Viewfinder/ShutterstockIt’s easy to get prescription refills through an online pharmacy.

You don’t have to go to a pharmacy to get your prescription medicine. In fact, you may not even need to visit a doctor’s office, either.

With the benefits of telemedicine and telepharmacy, you can discuss your condition virtually with a physician, who may be able to prescribe a medication that can be ordered through a pharmacy and delivered to your home.

Here’s what you need to know about getting prescription medication remotely.

What is telepharmacy?

Telepharmacy is the delivery of pharmacy services. This includes virtual consultations and dispensing medications remotely, says George S. Gavrillos, Chief Pharmacy Officer at Leafwell.

There are two main ways to get a prescription delivered:

  • Digital pharmacies allow you to fill prescriptions online through a doctor or with an app. These can be used after you’ve physically visited a doctor or had a virtual consultation. Digital pharmacies will deliver medication to your home by mail or courier, since there is no physical location for you to visit.
  • Home delivery is when a physical pharmacy – like CVS – delivers a medication to your home. Some local pharmacies offer this option, and you can call or check online to see if your local pharmacy does.

Which prescription drugs can be delivered?

After a telemedicine appointment, doctors will often have enough information to advise patients on which over the counter medications to take – or to write a prescription.

“The majority of decisions and recommendations can be made based on the patient interview and reviewing lab and diagnostic studies,” says Tim Canty, MD, executive director of pain medicine at Comprehensive Spine and Pain Centre of New York.

All pharmacies are regulated by state licensing boards. Because of this, there are different laws for which prescription drugs can be delivered in each state, according to Chirag Kulkarni, CMO and co-founder of Medly Pharmacy, a digital pharmacy.

According to Kulkarni, the most common prescriptions you can fill online are:

  • Antibiotics such as Penicillin, Amoxicillin, or Azithromycin
  • Allergy medicine like Clartin or Flonase
  • Asthma medications, such as Albuterol Inhalers or albuterol nebulizing solution

Digital and physical pharmacies can also deliver non-prescription medications like Advil, Tylenol, vitamins, and supplies like thermometers, Kulkarni says.

Some pharmaceutical drugs that can cause addiction or dependency are classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as controlled substances, and are more heavily regulated.

Painkillers like oxycodone and anxiety medications like benzodiazepines are examples of controlled substances. Whether or not these types of medication can be filled online and delivered to your home will depend on state law for the specific drug.

You may also have to go through extra steps to get these controlled substances via mail. For example, your digital pharmacy may require you to present photo identification and sign for the delivery upon arrival.

However, in response to COVID-19, the DEA has released guidelines making it easier for providers to prescribe controlled substances through telemedicine – so check with your doctor if this applies to you.

How prescriptions are delivered

Doctors can send prescriptions directly to online pharmacies using the same technology they use to send a prescription to a traditional pharmacy. Each registered pharmacy is identified by a National Provider Identifier (NPI).

Here are three popular online pharmacy options:

  • Medly: Offers free, same-day prescription delivery through the app or website. The medications are delivered by Medly’s delivery team in tamper-resistant packaging.
  • PillPack (by Amazon Pharmacy): PillPack packages your medications by the time of day you need to take them (for example, all morning medicines together in a packet and all evening medications together). The packets are automatically delivered monthly.
  • Nimble: Nimble works with local pharmacies to fill and deliver prescriptions in as little as an hour.

If you’re looking for more options, Insider Reviews has compiled a list of the best pharmacy delivery services.

These apps and online services also make it easy to keep track of your medications, says Alexander Mauskop, MD, founder of the New York Headache Centre and medical advisor at Cove, a telemedicine company for people with migraines.

For non-controlled medications, doctors often write prescriptions with refills, so that you can get more of the medication when it runs out, without booking another doctor’s appointment. Apps and digital pharmacies can make getting these refills easy.

“In many cases, telepharmacy services can facilitate refills to help make sure patients always have their medication on hand,” he says. “Many telepharmacy mobile or online apps allow patients to see how many refills they have left for their medication.”

Related articles from our Health Reference library:

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.