The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

Pharmacy Loyalty two cents worth.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 5:53 pm on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Eric, Pharmacist, wrote a nice piece in Drug Topics recently about loyalty cards.  If you haven’t read it yet, click on his link on the blog roll you’ll find it there.  It got me thinking about the darn things and lacking anything really INTERESTING to write about today, I just decided to steal his own topic and simply add to it.  I’ll admit it, I have no shame…

If  I HAD to choose between either samples from the doctors office and the loyalty cards, I suppose I would choose the loyalty cards for the simple reason that I get NO money for samples that come from the doctors office but I do at least generate a sale from the latter.  That being said,  let me make this perfectly clear….Loyalty cards are a colossal pain in the Chick’s rear. 

To clarify…if its not clear enough..I don’t really mind the one-time-here-its-free cards.  Take the card, get your one month free supply of ExpensO-RXatrol and we are done. Finito, Over and out.  I never have to think about that transaction again.   Granted, there are a few brain trusts out there that seem to conveniently  forget  that the  card provided only a one month free supply and wonder rudely the next month “WHY do I have a $75 copay for Luxiq? I didn’t pay that LAST month??”  only to stomp off and refuse to take the prescription. 

No, the loyalty cards that tie the Chick’s feathers in a knot are the re-usable..monthly cards for 3 dispensings, 6 dispensings,  1 yr, 18 month…you get my drift.  Give me a break.  You get Pimple Face Finnegan in here with  Cards for Solodyn, EpiDuo, yada yada yada and his mother expects me to remember that each month this card goes with this drug and on and on…  SORRY MOM, THAT ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN…

I fill over 6000 prescriptions each month.  99% of them are billed to some kind of insurance or discount plan.   I am damn excellent at keeping track of 1 insurance, and most of the time, if I have it bookmarked, i can sometimes remember the split bill…but not always.  Therefore, when I so these split bills, I tell the patient (in the most kind manner possible) “Dearest customer,  I take your loyalty cards, but it is YOUR responsibility to make sure they are done..not when you ORDER THE PRESCRIPTION, not pick it up, please remind the staff that you have this card because it will be  returned to the back of the line if it needs to be rebilled at the time of pick-up. ”  

Unfortunately my computer does not have any kind of “flag” that tells me that any given rx was split billed.  It just doesn’t. And while I do my best to put “split bill” in the comment line, that comment line applies to every thing we look at on their file, not just that rx.   Nothing stops the line from moving quicker than when my tech moves from the cash register TO a computer with a RX and a loyalty card…and does NOT move the customer out of the way.  I have endured too many glares from customers when I tell them to step away from the counter when we rebill cards for them…Know what??? Tough noogies. If you want to have $25 knocked off your Diovan..wait your turn.

Now we have special loyalty cards that frustrate the cashier also. Not only do they require a split bill, but they “fund” a card that has to be swiped at the cash register, in order for the customer to receive the loyalty discount.  (Insert head slap here!).  These transactions have to be very specially done, in order to work. In a nutshell, if the copay is $40 for Aciphex, and the card takes $30 off, then the clerk has to ring up  $40, collect $10 FIRST, to make the remainder $30 show on the register…then the customer has to slide the loyalty card, put in the PIN number, and process to get the #30 off. It will not work in any other order. 

My question WHAT THE HECK for??.  Why add this step when the split bill process would have been sufficient?  Im just sayin….

Recently this woman brought me 4 prescriptions for acne medications from a physician whose sole purpose in life (I believe) is to promote the most expensive dermatologicals on the planet. I believe I have written about him before.  Each of these rx’s had a loyalty card associated with it, but some were actually duplications in treatment.  “Mom” gave me this deck of cards and rx’s and wanted me to provide “whichever was the cheaper product”.  Steaming with rage because we were slammed (being a Monday).  I wasted close to 30 minutes billing, and rebilling this nightmare, for which she thanked  me by taking NONE of them.   “I just wanted to know how much they cost”. 

Maam?  may the fleas of a thousand camels find solace in your underwear tonight.


Comment by kevhead

December 1, 2009 @ 8:44 pm

if it makes you fell better, I used to work on the other side of the fence, when one of the programs was not working as well as the big pharma company wanted, they blamed me, said I was making up numbers to make their sales team look bad, the tried to get me fired. I had to laugh and told thier director to f off, that felt good (at the time I had a cool boss that lauged at it, these days…..)

Comment by Carol

December 1, 2009 @ 9:18 pm

This is why I am SOOOO glad provincial laws up here make those type of cards illegal. No ‘inducement’ to fill a prescription is allowed. Thank gawd. What a mess otherwise

Comment by Erin

December 1, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and this, by far, is your all-time-best post!
Although I may be extra jaded, having just barely made it through 2 evenings of work that fell after a major holiday, on the first part of the week, and at the first of the month. (In other words, the perfect trifecta of retail pharmacy hell.)

Comment by Dr. Grumpy

December 2, 2009 @ 4:42 am

Yeah, the reps push those things on us, and I hate them.

Comment by Cody

December 2, 2009 @ 9:03 am

I make sure to tell every person that makes me do one of those evil things at pickup, to call in and tell us about the coupon when they call in their RX refill.

And then next month when they do, they call in and get one of the bad, lazy techs that say “Okay we’ll do it” and then DON’T, so I end up looking like a fool to that patient…

Comment by PharmacyJim

December 2, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

Seriously, people have no idea how difficult these can be sometimes. I consider myself relatively intelligent (that’s my first mistake, right?) when it comes to computers and software, but if one person has multiple “loyalty cards” or coupons, it can quickly become a bad dream. These cards also encourage the prescribing of more expensive meds, when in many instances, a less expensive generic would be effective….not every time, but….

Comment by Dan

December 3, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

I think the FDA needs to stop approving “me-too” drugs. Why do me need Solodyn? And why do we now need it in 65 and 115mg? How many benzoyl peroxide products do we need? Same goes for clobetasol. Perhaps the higher ups in the FDA need to consider that the chemical moiety needs to be unique not just the dosage form.

Comment by Dr. Hank

December 4, 2009 @ 6:26 pm

I generally don’t give out these cards (I either can’t remember they’re in the closet, or don’t prescribe that particular medication). But, this is one of those issues (like the cost of “free” e-prescribing programs to pharmacists) that we as doctors really *won’t* know about unless a pharmacist tells us “you know, this is a real pain on our end.”

Comment by Beloved Parrot

December 5, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

Why is it, though, that a client can’t find out how much something will cost without the pharmacist filling the script first? I was prescribed a new drug the other day and just wanted to know how much — nope, had to fill it and then they’d tell me and I could refuse if I couldn’t afford it. Duh . . . .
Because Parrot, as much as we’d like to be psychic, we do not know what the cost of a prescription is UNTIL we adjudicate the claim online. Something like 97% of people have some kind of RX insurance or discount plan and we do not assign the prices of them. the insurers do. Therefore, we have to “fill” the prescription first, get the price THEN tell you what it will cost you. This is time consuming, as you might guess. If you want to pay 100% cash for your rx, we can give you the price. I doubt however, that you do!

Comment by Shalom (R.Ph)

December 16, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

You know what really burns me?

When there’s a card for 7 free tablets of something that only comes in 30s.

Yes, Eisai, I’m looking at you. For the longest time I was stuck with 23 tablets of Aciphex that I couldn’t get rid of, because everyone always gets 30 at a time and it only comes in bottles of 30. I can’t believe that they didn’t think of this; it had to be a deliberate ploy to get more bottles out there. Essentially those seven tablets came out of my pocket, because carrying inventory on the shelf also costs money. Especially when those tablets are $5.60 each, which I had to front to my wholesaler.

(We finally convinced a doctor to write a script for 23 tablets for a patient of his who had a zero copay, and got rid of them that way, but we aren’t taking any more of those coupons unless they pay for an even amount.)

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