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Tamalee Richards | COVID-19: Ensuring access to medications by the elderly

Published:Wednesday | November 11, 2020 | 12:06 AM

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a global recommendation for elderly persons to stay at home, especially elderly persons with chronic illnesses. These include, but are not limited to, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. This population is among the high-risk groups that are at increased risk for hospitalisation and death should they contract the infection. The reason for this dilemma is that as we age, and in the presence of chronic illnesses, our immune system is significantly weakened. And for this same reason, it is very important to have these illnesses under control.


The Government of Jamaica has introduced stay-at-home orders for persons age 75 years and older since it also believes they are among the high risk groups. This is in an effort to minimise contact with the public to decrease the risk of contracting the virus.

This recommendation may prove a challenge for those who must fill their prescriptions at the pharmacy. The resulting effect may include interruption of their drug dosing schedule/drug therapy, leading to missed doses and uncontrolled disease condition. Missing doses has the potential to lead to further complications such as kidney damage from uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Another challenge is that when the medication is finished, patients may resort to the use of herbal/home remedies in an effort to compensate for the lack of medication. However, herbal remedies on their own are not likely to provide sufficient control and, therefore, may put persons at risk for unnecessary hospital visits and possible hospitalisation. It is also important to note that some medications can cause adverse effects when stopped abruptly.


To ensure adequate supply of your medications while minimising contact with the public sphere, here are some tips.

1. The National Health Fund (NHF) has made adjustments to the duration of drug supply when using the NHF card to purchase certain prescription drugs. The card now allows persons to fill three months of medications, instead of one month, at your pharmacy.

2. Mobile service is offered by NHF Drug Serv pharmacies in the various parishes. With this service, your medication is delivered to you at your home. The team comprises pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. You must be 65 years and older and have a prescription from your visit to a public hospital.

3. Some pharmacies offer the service of delivering your drugs to you in the comfort of your home. Contact your pharmacy to learn more about this service.

4. There are pharmacies that facilitate WhatsApp prescriptions. This will require you to send an image of your prescription to the pharmacy’s WhatsApp number and indicate the items you desire to be filled. You will then be further guided to submit the physical copy of your prescription, along with your health card(s), as necessary, in preparation for the pickup of your medication.

If you would like to take full advantage of these services, feel free to speak with your pharmacist for more details.

- Tamalee Richards is a registered pharmacist and assistant lecturer, College of Health Sciences, University of Technology, Jamaica. Send feedback to