Stuck in England, low on meds — one man’s story


We’ve all had vacation hassles but imagine being overseas and low on your medication when COVID-19 hit. That’s what happened to Joe.*

In mid-March, he was in England visiting his daughter and son-in-law. The virus was disrupting travel and forcing closures worldwide. And Joe only had four days left of his heart medication.

He was working hard to move up his flight to the U.S., but he had to figure out a way to get his prescription refilled, too.

Brainstorming solutions

When Joe called OptumRx with his dilemma, he connected with Ethan Juarez. Juarez is a senior manager on the OptumRx client support team. He has experience handling situations that demand immediate action, like when a member is nearly out of medication.

“We take a step back, we figure out all the options that we have, and we find the best course of action to ensure we get the member their needed medication when and where they need it,” says Juarez.

ethan-1Ethan Juarez, at home, providing great service during a pandemic. 

First, they tried to transfer the prescription to a British pharmacy. When that didn’t pan out, Juarez checked with the mail order department about shipping the prescription directly to Joe’s daughter’s home in England.

“Usually the home delivery pharmacy is able to ship overnight,” says Juarez, “but because of worldwide delays in shipping due to COVID-19, it was going to take an unusually long time of seven to 14 days for him to get the medication.”

That wasn’t going to work. Joe needed his heart medicine in days, not weeks. “Having a disruption in your therapy for a chronic condition is dangerous, because your body is counting on that medication on a daily basis,” says Juarez.


Thinking outside the box

Juarez wasn’t about to give up. He and a colleague began thinking outside the box. Juarez recalls they considered sending Joe to an urgent care or an emergency room. But they realized he’d still need a prescription in hand.

That’s when Juarez zeroed in on another possibility — identifying a local pharmacy with U.S. affiliations in England. Juarez suggested, “Maybe we can call the pharmacy in England, and your doctor can send the prescription directly to them. I know that’s not something that they usually do, but this is an extraordinary situation.”

Joe followed Juarez’s advice … and it worked. Joe’s doctor communicated with a local pharmacy to have the prescription filled and Joe was able to secure his medication in just two days.

A week later, Joe got a phone call. It was Juarez checking in. Juarez confirmed Joe made it back to the U.S. safely.

“We were able to turn a potentially bad situation into something positive within a short turnaround time,” says Juarez. He felt good about how the story ended, and so did Joe.

“With the outbreak of COVID-19, it is now more important than ever that patients continue to have access to and take their medications. It always feels incredible to assist a member. It’s really something that we pride ourselves on, to always go above and beyond for any member,” says Juarez.

To find out how OptumRx is adjusting its policies to make sure all members can access their medications during COVID-19, read a recent blog post.

*To protect the identity of the OptumRx member in this story, we’ll call him Joe.

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