Medical Challenges

Retail vs Specialty

There are two main types of pharmacies that most individuals utilize, retail and specialty. The main differences between the two is the type of medication they can dispense, and the services offered. Retail Pharmacies (such as your local Walgreens, CVS, or Wal-Mart) are retail. Common medication such as antibiotics, blood pressure, and allergy medications are usually sent to a retail pharmacy and, if you’re lucky, you can pick them up after you’ve done some grocery shopping.

Certain treatments for rare diseases require specialized pharmacists who are knowledgeable about medications for complex diseases. This includes capabilities for researching financial assistance options, side effects, and constant communication with the prescribing provider’s office. A specialty pharmacy can either be a local specialty pharmacy or a mail order pharmacy that is selected by your insurance provider.

While there are many moving pieces, you can work proactively to make obtaining prescriptions as seamless as possible. Ensure all stakeholders have up-to-date, accurate information – your insurance card, phone number, and mailing address are critical to confirm at each encounter. At each visit with your healthcare team, be sure to confirm they have the correct pharmacy on file so that your prescriptions end up at the right place. This is especially important if you have multiple prescriptions sent to different pharmacies (e.g., a retail pharmacy handling a standard prescription and a specialty pharmacy handling another).