SHS hires new pharmacist to simplify prescriptions process for students

| Contributing Reporter

Students visiting the Habif Health & Wellness Center this year will encounter a new pharmacist.

Shannon Gergen, Pharm. D., who graduated from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy in 2005, became the Student Health Services (SHS) pharmacist this year. He is implementing changes that aim to make prescriptions more affordable and accessible to students.

Already, Gergen has expanded the variety of drugs available at the pharmacy by adding certain mental health medications such as Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta and increasing the range of oral contraceptive options. According to Gergen, medications that are not immediately available for pickup can be ordered from a nearby pharmacy within one business day.

The drugs that students most commonly seek at the pharmacy are one-time use drugs such as antibiotics and antifungals, rather than drugs needed for chronic or long-term care. The main exception to this, Gergen says, is oral contraceptives. Asthma medications are also one of the more commonly purchased long-term drugs.

“My predecessor limited what was stocked…we’re trying to work with students to have in stock or get in stock anything they might need on a regular basis,” Gergen said.

Many parents and students are concerned about which insurance coverage will best offset the prices of prescription drugs purchased at the pharmacy.

“I’m kind of cynical about American medical insurance…it’s frustrating. You don’t really get it explained thoroughly,” junior Kaitlin Heim said.

In the beginning of the year, Gergen received multiple phone calls from parents concerned about prescription costs.

The pharmacy already accepts what Gergen referred to as the “big three” insurers: Medco, Express Scripts and Caremark. They are currently in the process of adding two new insurers, Cigna and Humana. Students on the Aetna student health insurance plan receive automatic coverage for prescriptions.

Gergen hopes to eliminate confusion surrounding the insurance coverage issue by adding an informational brochure about prescription coverage into next year’s freshman orientation package. He added that it is sometimes possible for drug costs to be covered even if a student’s insurance plan is not one listed by the pharmacy.

“When students come, I make sure to ask—if we don’t have any insurance on file for them—‘Do you have any insurance at all?’ Chances are, we can take it,” Gergen said.

Gergen strongly recommends that students bring a photocopy of their insurance card to any appointment at SHS.

“It’s always helpful when students have their insurance card or a copy of it, especially the first time they’re using the pharmacy. Generally we don’t have that information…Whenever possible, even if you don’t think you need it, if you’re coming to the doctor’s office or pharmacy try to have your insurance card on you ‘cause it may turn out you will need it,” Gergen said.

He also urges students to make use of the five-dollar generic drug list, which is composed of cheaper, non-brand name versions of commonly purchased prescriptions.

Prior to his hiring at Washington University, Gergen worked at pharmacies at Schnucks and Shop & Save and at a nursing home’s chronic care pharmacy.

In his current position, he will serve both the undergraduate and graduate student populations.

Janice Evans, a first year law student who also completed her undergraduate education at the University, has used SHS.

“[It is] generally a positive experience, quick service, no complaints,” Evans said.

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