To Get “Free” Covid Pills from 60 Miles Away You Pay Private Uber to Deliver

(p. 1) Just after 1 p.m. on Tuesday last week, my phone buzzed with a text message from my mother: “Well, came down with cold, aches, cough etc over wknd.” She had taken an at-home coronavirus test. It was positive.

Having spent the past year writing about Covid-19 vaccines and treatments for The New York Times, I knew a lot about the options available to people like my mother. Yet I was about to go on a seven-hour odyssey that would show me there was a lot I didn’t grasp.

. . .

(p. 3) In the end, my scramble to find a prescriber turned out to be unnecessary. In the early evening, my mother got an unexpected call from a doctor with her primary care provider. She told the doctor about her symptoms and about the Rite Aid I had found with Paxlovid in stock.

The doctor told her that he was surprised that we had been able to track down Paxlovid. He phoned in a prescription to the Rite Aid.

Now we just needed to pick up the pills before the pharmacy closed in about an hour.

Uber came to the rescue. I requested a pickup at the Rite Aid and listed the destination as my mother’s home, some 60 miles away.

Once a driver accepted the ride, I called him and explained my unusual request: He’d need to get the prescription at the pharmacy window and then drive it to my mother’s. I told him I’d give him a 100 percent tip.

The driver, who asked me not to use his name in this article, was game. He delivered the precious cargo just after 8 p.m. My mother swallowed the first three pills — the beginning of a five-day, 30-pill regimen — within minutes of the driver’s arrival.

. . .

. . . the fact that the process was so hard for a journalist whose job it is to understand how Paxlovid gets delivered is not encouraging. I worry that many patients or their family would give up when told “no” as many times as I was.

I was also reminded that even a “free” treatment can come with significant costs.

The federal government has bought enough Paxlovid for 20 million Americans, at a cost of about $530 per person, to be distributed free of charge. But I spent $256.54 getting the pills for my mother. I paid $39 for the telemedicine visit with the provider who told my mother that she would need to visit in person. The rest was the Uber fare and tip. Many patients and their families can’t afford that.

President Biden recently called the Pfizer pills a “game changer.” My experience suggests it won’t be quite so simple.

For the full story, see:

Rebecca Robbins. “A 7-Hour Odyssey to Get My Mom Covid Pills.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, January 23, 2022): 1 & 3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 19, 2022, and has the title “When My Mom Got Covid, I Went Searching for Pfizer’s Pills.”)

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