The latest generation of online pharmacies is thinking outside the (pill)box.
One in five Americans takes more than three medications a day, and 50 percent of them don’t take their medication exactly as prescribed, according to the World Health Organization. Add vitamins to the mix — more than half of Americans take them, The New York Times revealed in a recent article — and for those 68 and older, the figure rises to 68 percent.
To further complicate matters, those with impaired vision have difficulty reading the small print on prescription pill bottles and those who lack mobility often struggle with the simple task of getting to the local pharmacy. But a new generation of online pharmacies may have the remedy.
Combining Medications and Supplements
Alto (at the moment, available only in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles) and PillPack are online pharmacies, but what makes them different from most others is that they don’t send pill bottles individually upon prescription renewal dates. Both sort and combine all of a person’s medications — including any vitamins and other over-the-counter items — into daily dose packets delivered once a month. Packets come labeled with date and time to help you remember whether you’ve taken your meds for the day, and the print is reasonably large and easy to read. As for insurance plans? Both Alto and PillPack work with insurance companies and handle copays just like other pharmacies.
Then there’s the issue of contraindication, aka incompatibility between meds. Working with different physicians and using prescriptions along with over-the-counter items increases the risk of interaction. Because pharmacists are trained to see red flags, funneling everything through a single source helps reduce risk.
Sometimes It’s All About the Packaging
PillPack’s modernist dispenser could be mistaken for a high-tech computer speaker if it weren’t for a pill packet discreetly peeking out of a dispenser slot. Alto, on the other hand, combines its SmartPacks into a lighter-weight, disposable dispenser box. For a population more and more on the go, both companies’ pill packs come with an extra advantage: They travel well and take up less space than traditional Monday–Sunday pillboxes.
PHOTO ABOVE: PillPack