Filling pains: Student access to prescription medication

Anabelle Dillard, News Writer

Figuring out how to fill and manage prescriptions can be a major challenge for Whitman students, especially those who come from out of state. 

One option is the Welty Health Center, which can prescribe medications for students to fill at local pharmacies. Director of the Health Center Claudia Ness recommended that students reach out to the Health Center when they need to access a prescription

“All students can access our physicians at the Health Center. This is always the best place to start for our students,” Ness said, “[However] some prescriptions written by providers from outside Washington state have extra regulation.”

In the United States, medical licenses are granted to doctors by individual states, and most states do not allow medical professionals to see patients in other states. While some adjustments were made to these laws during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these changes are being rolled back

First-year Avery Ehlers is an out-of-state student from California. She has had to fill her prescriptions at a CVS at home and have her parents ship them to her. Last semester, she also used the local Rite-Aid to fill prescriptions, which she found had its own challenges. 

“If you don’t have a car, [the Rite-Aid] can be inaccessible at times, and also walking around with your medications can be a little scary,” Ehlers said. 

“[Being from out of state] caused a lot of problems. Currently, my parents have to pay [for shipping] every time I need a prescription, and I’m disabled, so that’s a lot,” Ehlers said. “Also, having to talk to different doctors to get them to re-prescribe everything to a new pharmacy, just because the nearest CVS is an hour and a half away, was not fun.”

One anonymous junior reported having used the Health Center to get her prescriptions. She had no complaints about her overall interactions with the Health Center, but had some difficulty with actually picking up her prescriptions. 

“Sometimes I have gone to pick up prescriptions and the pharmacists will say they don’t have anything for me so I would have to call the Health Center again,” she said. 

According to NBC news, some pharmacists have also reported being overworked and overwhelmed with patients throughout the pandemic, which can increase wait times and the risk of potentially dangerous errors. Many pharmacies across the country have struggled to balance their usual responsibilities with the additional tasks of administering COVID-19 vaccinations and testing. 

Ehlers reported that the wait times for the Rite-Aid pharmacy were relatively short last semester. Wait times at the Safeway pharmacy can be long, with individuals waiting in line for up to thirty minutes just to pick up a prescription, according to both Ehlers and the anonymous junior. 

“The lines at the pharmacy can be really long and many times my prescription has not been ready even though the pharmacy alerts me it is. So it is hard to know what time to go pick up the prescription and what day,” said the anonymous student. 

Accessing healthcare—especially mental health services—has proved challenging for many Whitman students. Last semester, the Counseling and Health Centers had notoriously long wait times, although a recent Wire article reported that improvements have been made at the Counseling Center to better meet student’s needs.