/publications/issue/2004/2004-09/2004-09-4512

Illinois Pharmacists Fume over State's Mail-Order Rx Rules

Author: Ken Rankin

Officials in Illinois are defending their decision to pressure thousands of state employees to abandon community pharmacies in favor of mail-order dispensaries, arguing that the new program will not mandate the use of mail prescriptions.

Although that may be technically true, chain and independent pharmacists in Illinois say the new system might as well be mandatory because few patients will "volunteer" to pay double for their medicine.

Under the new rules, the more than 50,000 state workers and their dependents covered by the Illinois employee drug program will be required to use mail order sources for all 90-day "maintenance prescriptions," or pay at least double the usual copayment to continue buying 30-day prescription supplies at their local pharmacies.

For their part, state officials predict that the new requirements will reduce the cost of providing drug benefits to Illinois employees by $8 million annually, a figure disputed by pharmacy leaders in the state.