Last year, students seeking medicine had to trek to Giant or CVS to get their prescription filled. This year they only have to walk as far as Mercer Hall.
The UMW Health Center now stocks generic antibiotics in their pharmacy whereas before, only over-the-counter medications were available. Although the school originally handed out antibiotics for free to students with health center coverage, the recently-announced state-wide budget cuts drove administrators to institute a $5 fee, according to the University’s physician, Dr. Paul Thomas Riley.
Riley spearheaded the move to provide the student prescription service shortly after he was hired last January to replace long-term Health Center Director, Dr. Ilma Overman.
After acquiring the requisite state licensure, the school began ordering low-cost medications in bulk online – usually 1,000 pills at a time. One of the most frequently prescribed medications, Amoxicillin, is available to the school at the low price of $2.
Riley initiated this service for students to cut down the time and effort it takes to go to a pharmacy off campus.
“If we could prevent some of that I think we’ve done an added service here to the students that we are capable of doing because we’ve got the supplies,” Riley said.
This added service is especially likely to help freshmen who are not allowed cars. 45 percent of students who visited the Health Center this year were freshmen. For residential students, the Health Center fee is included in their housing fee. Off-campus students must pay $165 for one semester and $330 for two semesters if they wish to receive Health Center service. This is unlike the Psychological Service’s policy of free care for all students.
“There is a problem occasionally and it’s a problem of miscommunication,” said Riley. “Students can get quite angry about that. And it is confusing.”
Several other Virginia schools charge higher fees to students for these medications.
U. Va. keeps a limited selection of non-prescription medications stocked in their pharmacy. Students must purchase these drugs as well as prescription medications from either the health center or the student’s family physician.
While UMW is making medications more available to students, prescriptions from anywhere but the Health Center cannot be filled because there is no pharmacist there to fill them. These anti-bacterial medications are only available for students who come to the Health Center, get diagnosed with a problem and are prescribed medicine by a UMW doctor.
Not all students greet this news happily.
Rebecca Mongold, a sophomore Business major, not only was completely unaware of this new service but also skeptical about receiving prescription medications from UMW’s pharmacy.
“I personally would feel safer if I could go to Giant where they are trained in just pharmaceuticals,” Mongold said. “I just wouldn’t feel comfortable coming here to get my prescription medicine.”
Riley would like to see more drugs available in the school’s pharmacy, but the costs exceeds his means.
“We spend the money, we charge and the money goes back into a general fund,” Riley said. “So we don’t get our costs reimbursed. So I can’t comfortably buy expensive things because we are not covering our costs and giving away an expensive item.”
Despite these setbacks, Riley continues to find new ways to help students.
On Tuesdays from 5-6 p.m. in the Wellness Center, Riley is available to answer any medical questions students may have. He eventually would like to see discussion groups and interest meetings held.