Mail-Order Prescriptions Marginalize Pharmacists

Mail-order pharmacies are increasingly seen by insurance providers as a viable cost-cutting measure.

Pharmacy benefits manager Medco Health Solutions reported a 24% increase in profit in its 4th quarter, thanks in part due to expansion of the company’s profitable mail-order pharmacy business. As health insurance providers continue to seek cost-cutting measures, other companies also offering mail-order prescription drugs are likely to benefit.

Some are concerned these shifts could hinder the ability of independent and neighborhood pharmacies to meet the needs of patients whose insurance plans require them to order medications by mail.

A recent report, published by small town newspaper the Springfield News-Sun, highlighted the issue as it has unfolded in the city of Springfield, Ohio. In Springfield, a prominent local employer offers health coverage that requires beneficiaries to order drugs by mail. As a result, pharmacists in the area have been routinely approached by patients seeking counseling for prescriptions delivered by the US Postal Service—instead of filled by pharmacies.

These developments are concurrent with attempts by pharmacists’ associations to expand pharmacy services on a national scale. Both the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) have conducted campaigns, written letters, and met with White House officials to lobby for greater federal support, both in the form of Medicare reform and pro-pharmacy legislation, for the important role pharmacists play in patient care.

Anthony Civello, BSPharm, CEO of retail chain Kerr Drug and a representative of NACDS, has addressed the issue of mail order. In a past statement upon his induction as NACDS chairperson, Civello explained that “the industry is not opposed to mail order. What we are opposed to is mandatory mail.” He also said that mail-order pharmacies, while cost-effective, are “not the right solution for health care as it relates to prescriptions.”