A newly conducted study of millions of Medicare Part D prescription drug event (PDE) data has found that community pharmacies provide 90-day medication supplies at lower cost than mail order pharmacies and that local pharmacists substitute lower-cost generic drugs more often when compared to mail order pharmacies.
With funding from the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), Norman V. Carroll, PhD, a Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, reviewed PDE records for 2010 that were supplied by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The analysis found:
"Local community pharmacists not only offer expert medication counseling face-to-face, but they also provide affordable access to prescription drugs and are leading the way in the appropriate use of lower-cost generic drugs," said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA. "This study blows a huge hole in the PBMs' arguments that more mail order is the right prescription for Medicare Part D savings."
"For policymakers and health plan sponsors, these findings offer several recommendations:
Mail order pharmacies are primarily owned and operated by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which also administer prescription drug plans for Medicare, employers and other plan sponsors. This dual role as both provider and program manager is an inherent conflict of interest. The companies have paid out approximately $370 million in recent years to settle claims such as fraud and deceptive practices.
Previous nationwide surveys have documented patients' preference for local pharmacies and lower satisfaction with mail order pharmacies. A January 2013 national survey of 669 Medicare Part D beneficiaries revealed hundreds of complaints about mail order pharmacies and opposition among seniors to being required to use mail order. The poll echoed the findings of the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Pharmacy Study and a 2012 Walgreens survey that four out of five patients prefer to obtain their medications at a local pharmacy.