This Mom Found a Free Way to Save Hours at the Pharmacy (And Some Money)

Zarinah Francois standing with her husband and five children
Zarinah Francois, 37, a mother of five, uses Phil to fill her family's 14 prescriptions every month. Photo courtesy of Zarinah Francois
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Zarinah Francois hated going to the pharmacy. Hated it. She had to go all the time, and it was a nightmare every time.

The 37-year-old California mother of five had to go to the drugstore a lot to pick up medications for herself and her adopted 6-year-old daughter. Zarinah has lupus, and her adopted daughter has cerebral palsy.

Zarinah takes eight medications a month to manage her lupus nephritis, a painful and troublesome kidney inflammation. Her daughter Isabella is on six medications for her own symptoms.

Fortunately, Zarinah’s husband is a fire department captain, so the family has health insurance. And California’s Medicaid program pays for Isabella’s cerebral palsy drugs.

Still, a family of seven with 14 prescriptions meant a lot of trips to the drugstore. Zarinah remembers them well.

I spent most of my time at the pharmacy!”

Flashbacks to the Pharmacy

Zarina's adopted daughter, Isabella.
Zarina’s adopted daughter Isabella, 6. Photo courtesy of Zarinah Francois

“I would have to shop around to see who carried each medication,” she recalls. “All this running around, calling around, picking up medications, sometimes actually having to go inside the store to wait in long lines. Then you find out it’s not in stock, or it hasn’t been approved yet. You have to come back tomorrow and wait in line again.”

“It was such a pain in the neck.”

She ended up frequenting two different pharmacies, Rite Aid and Walgreens.

Sometimes Rite Aid because they had medications that Walgreens didn’t. Sometimes Walgreen’s because they were better at billing Medicaid.

This harried mother of five remembers other problems that used to delay her at the drugstore:

“Labs not being open. Waiting for the senior pharmacist to be available for approval of a medical prescription. Long waits on the phone to hear there are four calls ahead of you just to see if your prescription is ready for pickup.”

Here’s how much of a hassle it was:

“This process would be so lengthy, often I would just would go without meds due to the pharmacy delays.”

When It’s Just Too Much of a Hassle

She’s far from alone.

Nearly half of all Americans — some 119 million people — are taking prescription pills, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Consumers are forced to manage the hassles of multiple prescriptions all by themselves. Because of the difficulties, as many as 20% of consumers aren’t consistently filling their prescriptions.

People not taking their pills causes $100-$300 billion in totally extra, totally unnecessary medical costs every year.

All of those struggles led Zarinah to try something different.

Doing the Heavy Lifting Like a Boss

Zarinah Francois and her daughter Isabella
Photo courtesy of Zarinah Francois

That was a year and a half ago.

Today she uses Phil, an online prescription delivery service that’s trying to change the way people get their medications — by making it way easier.

The bottom line: Zarinah uses Phil’s app to schedule automatic refills for her family’s 14 prescriptions. They arrive in her mailbox, just like that. Boom boom boom.

Best of all: Phil takes on the hassles of coordinating with her pharmacies, doctors and insurance providers. It does the heavy lifting, even filling out paperwork.

“Most of my stress with prescription medications is dealing with insurance companies,” Zarinah says. “Phil does all of the legwork.”

She especially appreciates the way Phil jumps through all the bureaucratic hoops required by California Children’s Services, a state program for severely disabled or sick children, which pays for Isabella’s cerebral palsy medications.

“Usually, the other pharmacies tell me it can’t be done. It gets really stressful,” she says. “With Phil, they do everything.”

The Nuts and Bolts

Here’s what else she had to say about Phil:

  • Her prescriptions are mailed in discreet, padded packages.
  • It’s basically free. She pays nothing more than her usual copays, and delivery is free.
  • Prescription refills arrive a week or two before she runs out.
  • She’s able to chat with Phil staff online when she needs to. “Customer service appears to be 24/7,” she says. “They almost always respond right away via the app.”
  • She figures she’s saving $30 to $100 a month by not spending money on items she doesn’t need at drugstores.

So, what advice would this veteran of the drugstore wars give to others considering making this switch?

“If Phil is offered in your area, use it,” she says. “It will save you gas, money, time and stress.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. The more senior he gets, the more prescriptions he has.

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