Medication delivery service comes to campus
The Student Union partnered with e-pharmacy Capsule to deliver over-the-counter and prescription medications to University students.
With the numerous hills, stairs, and limited number of elevators, accessibility — or rather inaccessibility — has long been a point of contention on campus. This rang true for Hana Klempnauer Miller ’25 as she managed the Student Union presidential campaign of Peyton Gillespie ’25 and Lia Bergen ’25. Through personal experience, and testimonies from other students, Miller became increasingly aware of the lack of accessibility at the University. This applied to many areas of campus, but one relatively unexplored need was that of access to medications.
After meeting with the Disabled Students Network, it was clear to Miller that there were simply more accessibility issues to address than the director of health and wellness position in the Student Union could oversee. The Student Union needed a new position to focus specifically on Brandeis’ pressing need for increased accessibility.
Now, the Director of Accessibility for the Student Union, Miller set her sights on promoting access to prescription medications for University students. While it is true that there are pharmacies in the surrounding area, their locations pose challenges to students, whether it is mobility issues or simply a lack of time to go to a pharmacy amidst workloads and extracurriculars. The issue appeared to be a pretty easy fix as opposed to some more systemic issues plaguing the University. This semester, through a partnership with the relatively new e-pharmacy Capsule, Miller and the Student Union are aiming to solve this problem, and the initiative will kick off on Oct. 13.
The decision to do so was compounded by what Miller described as the University’s “hands-off” approach when it comes to accessibility. To her knowledge, the administration often defers issues of accessibility to Student Accessibility Services — issues which Miller believes require interdepartmental collaboration. Miller and the Student Union hope that partnering with Capsule will tackle problems regarding access to prescription medications, which Miller believes is one of the issues that was deferred to SAS. In her view, “This is an opportunity for the University to see how easy it is to make accessibility improvements, and how they can better support those kinds of initiatives.”
Miller first heard about Capsule from Dr. Colleen Collins, the medical director of the Health Center at Brandeis. Capsule, she learned, had reached out to campus health centers in the past, and because of that, a lot of campus practitioners are aware of their existence. “It kind of just stuck in the back of my mind,” Miller said in an Oct. 2 Zoom interview with the Justice, “and [when] I was looking at these issues … I came back to Capsule.” She wrote an email to the start-up explaining the University’s problem with access to prescription medications and proposed a partnership. Within two hours, they responded, willing and enthusiastic to partner with the University.
This new initiative will allow students to order prescription medications directly to campus; students can sign up through Capsule’s website or download their app. Doctors have the ability to prescribe medications through Capsule like any other pharmacy, and once processed, Capsule offers same-day deliveries, as well as scheduled deliveries to those ordering the medication. Participating students will be able to pick a preferably easy to find location for delivery drivers on campus, such as the Admissions Lot. “It’s essentially the same as Uber Eats,” Miller said, “but just with medication.”
The “Uber Eats model” that Capsule follows brought up a few concerns, namely about privacy. This, however, will not be an issue, according to Miller. The delivery couriers will not know what medication it is that they are delivering to students. That information is kept private between the student and their prescriber. Anonymity is a top priority for both the Student Union and Capsule alike, and Miller said that Capsule has lately taken “incredible steps” to ensure security for their clients. Privacy is of the utmost importance given the medications Capsule provides, which includes prescription medication, birth control, and even medications required for a medical abortion. Miller also believes it’s unlikely that prescriptions or orders will get mixed up. “Every package is individually packaged. It is marked with your name so you know that you are receiving your package,” she explained. “There are an incredibly comprehensive set of checks and balances on Capsule’s end.” Delivery couriers are also “heavily vetted” by the company and receive training. “I can understand [mix-ups or lost prescriptions] being a concern, but I really don’t see it being an issue,” Miller said.
Another feature of Capsule that Miller liked and wanted to bring to Brandeis was their lack of delivery fees. Other pharmacies offer delivery services, but for a fee. With Capsule, that would not be an issue. “We don’t want access to medications to be cost-prohibitive to any and all students,” Miller said in reference to why Capsule was the “only option” that the Student Union considered. That was the appeal: The only fee students will have to pay is their usual copay. Everything else is covered completely by Capsule. Prescriptions can be received from any U.S. state, but international prescriptions cannot be accepted. Non U.S. citizens are still able to take part in the program so long as their prescriptions are from a U.S. provider.
However, campus prescription deliveries, while very important, is not the Union’s end goal. Now that they have created a solution, the Student Union believes that this partnership will serve as a stepping stone to fixing broader issues of accessibility at the University. Miller hopes that it will demonstrate to Brandeis administration “how powerful accessibility can be for a student community” and encourage them to begin taking a more hands-on approach. It can be revolutionary, she said, to provide and care for student wellness, particularly when students have long felt that that is not considered a priority by those in charge.
In order to inform students about this new initiative, the Student Union is hosting a question and answer session on their Instagram page, @brandeisuniversitysu, on Oct. 4 to answer “any and all questions” students may have about the new program. A kickoff event will also take place on Oct. 13 outside Usdan from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with representatives from both the Student Union and Capsule to help students register and answer their questions. More information can be found on their Instagram page, along with a QR code for students who wish to register.
Miller is proud of what she and the Student Union have achieved. “Already, I think we’ve seen a lot of students say, ‘This is amazing, this is fantastic. I don’t have to, like, block out half of my day to go into Waltham and get my inhaler anymore,’” she said. College students tend to prefer services that are accessible and convenient, which Capsule, she noted, is more than able to provide.