Understanding Fertility Medications

by Russell Gellis, Rph

As couples make the decision to seek advanced fertility treatment, they may often become quickly overwhelmed with all the different medications they will need to take. Before treatment begins, fertility patients will likely learn about their treatment protocol, which may include taking drugs that provide or suppress hormone activity. Throughout the treatment protocol, patients are scheduled to visit their IVF center so their physician can monitor the effects of the medications and make necessary adjusts where needed to optimize treatment outcome.

Obviously physicians practicing in this area of medicine understand all the medications and the best protocols for patients, but may not always have the time to explain in great detail all the drugs and why they are being used. This article is being written for fertility patients who desire to know more about fertility medications, including simple explanations about their mechanism of action and timing at which they are being prescribed.

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Is your pharmacist someone who focuses on fertility treatment and understands your concerns?

Choosing the right pharmacy for your fertility medications

When you choose a doctor, you look for a specialist. You want someone who has experience helping others facing the same challenges you are facing. You want someone who has successfully helped others like you in the past. But most people do not apply the same standards to their pharmacist, even though the successful use of fertility drugs is a critical component of infertility treatment. (In fact, each year many couples going through treatment are unable to complete their cycle because they do not administer their medications correctly.)

Most people choose a pharmacy because it is right near their home or office. (While the convenience factor is important, we will discuss a way to have the best of both worlds by having your prescriptions filled through the mail in a moment.) Patients most often get their prescriptions filled and leave without asking a single question. Many people pay for prescriptions out of pocket because they assume (often incorrectly) that their insurance does not cover infertility treatments and their pharmacist is unable to provide them with information about their benefits.

While it may be convenient to choose a nearby pharmacy for prescriptions, there have been many changes introduced in recent years that make it much easier to shop around for the best pharmacy for your needs. And it is now possible to get the medications and information you need from the pharmacy you choose even if it is many miles away. Consider the following:

You can quickly find out if your pharmacy specializes in filling prescriptions for fertility treatments, and also obtain information about prices, delivery, patient education materials and other support services for customers through the Internet. Look at your pharmacist’s web site, and also check on different chat rooms where couples undergoing infertility treatment share information.

More people every day are choosing to have prescriptions delivered by messenger or by Federal Express. This makes having prescriptions filled very convenient and confidential. At apthorp, most of our prescriptions for fertility medications are now delivered either by messenger or by Federal Express. By choosing a pharmacy that delivers, you can take advantage of direct insurance billing and other important services, and you can shop around for the lowest prices.

Many pharmacies offer information at patient meetings and conferences. By reviewing these materials, you can choose a pharmacy that offers the services you find most important. These meetings are also an excellent opportunity to ask the pharmacy representative about pricing policies, insurance reimbursement and other important topics.

Even in your community, chances are good that one of your local pharmacies will be better informed about infertility treatment than others, so ask questions. For instance, can the pharmacists near your home or office name and explain the difference between the older fertility drugs and the newer recombinant medications manufactured through biotechnology? Can they answer your questions about storing fertility medications, and about preparing your medicines for injection? Do they know what you should do if you make a mistake in preparing your medicines for injection?

The question of cost

The question of costs for fertility medications can be complicated. On the surface, it seems straightforward you should look for the pharmacy that charges the lowest prices. Like many things that are too good to be true, however, many times what you see is not what you get. Here’s why.

Some pharmacies charge one price for prescriptions paid by customers, and another price for those that are covered by insurance. Often, patients do not consider this difference to be important if they have insurance coverage (i.e. a $10 co-pay feature) for their medicines. However, many infertility patients are surprised to learn that the medications they thought were covered by their insurance actually have a “cap” on payments. The higher prices charged by some pharmacies can cause patients to exceed their insurance maximum, forcing them to pay the difference out of pocket. This can often total several hundred dollars in additional expenses. If you have a limited budget for your medications, look for the pharmacy that will give you the most for your budget whether your medicines are covered by insurance or not.

Share your information

If you had a particularly good or bad experience with a pharmacy, or if you have advice that can help others to find the best prescription service, share the information. Go to an Internet chat room and let others know about it. Or tell the staff at your IVF (invitro fertilization) center. The most effective way for you to get the best products and services at the lowest prices from a pharmacy is to ask the right questions and get the information you need.

When you think about all the time you took to learn about your treatment and make the right decisions, doesn’t it make sense to make the same educated decisions about your prescriptions?

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