Mail-order Drugs Aren’t Always what they Seem


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During these Covid times we’re all looking for convenience and value for money as we’re told to stay at home and avoid spreading or catching Covid-19

If you’re one of the millions of Americans that regularly take prescription medications not only do you know they seem to be getting more expensive each year, but you also have to get your refills and that can be a headache if your pharmacy is miles away or maybe you’re without transport or immobile.

So, how wonderful when you see these companies on the Internet that can send your drugs through the mail and are often cheaper as well.

Mail-order drugs are not new, in fact here in the US, the service has been providing patients with medications by mail for more than a century especially for those who live in remote or rural areas, it’s since become more widespread.

Back in 1946 The Veterans Administration became the first pharmacy to mail prescription drugs to patient’s homes and even today, it still accounts for nearly one-third of the mail-order prescriptions that are dispensed in the US.

Then came the 80s and this is where we saw the rapid growth of the mail-order pharmacy industry with revenues soaring from $100 million to $1.5 billion and that trend continued to grow into the 90s mirroring the growth of the Internet.

So, is mail-order pharmacy right for you?

Like everything it’s a case-by-case basis.

It certainly can offer convenience and price savings, but you need to make sure that whatever medications you’re taking can be filled quickly and delivered to you on time and that’s where the system is starting to fall down.

According to a new report by the National Community Pharmacists Association, who represent more than 21,000 pharmacies across the US, “ Do it yourself healthcare is dangerous and we’re seeing some of the risks in this data” says Doug Hoey, CEO of the NCAP

“Insurance companies, employers, plan administrators and public health officials should consider the potential risk before they allow pharmacy benefit managers to stampede patients in to mail order”

NCAP’s survey found that 98% of community pharmacists say they’ve heard from patients whose mail-order drugs arrived late or not at all.

60% said their patient’s drugs were left out in the weather, where the elements can alter the way medications work.

And 44% said their patients received the wrong quantity of medication and around 26% said patients received the wrong medication entirely or the patient’s drugs went to the wrong address.

“There’s nothing convenient or cost-effective about any of this, and it’s all extraordinarily dangerous,” said Hoey. “Importantly, community pharmacists came to the rescue after mail order failed to deliver.” 

Hoey noted that 92 percent of pharmacists who responded to the survey said they’ve had to give patients a short-term supply of medication while they waited for the mail houses to track down their orders. 78 percent say they’ve called doctors on behalf of patients for new prescriptions.

“In many of the cases that we see, patients are economically coerced by their prescription benefits plan, which sometimes owns the mail order pharmacy, to get the drugs by mail. Assuming the drugs are delivered on time, to the right places, and not exposed to harsh weather conditions, patients are then left to sort out the safest and most effective way to use their prescriptions,” said Hoey.

For some, having your prescription drugs delivered by mail-order may be the only convenient way you can get your medications.

As for the rest of us if you can go to your local pharmacy then do. When dealing with your health you should be able to speak to someone face to face and make sure the medications you’re taking are right for you and if taking multiple medications, that none of them will adversely interact with one another.

If you’re taking antibiotics for instance, these normally must be taken within a certain time frame once prescribed and if you’re waiting for them through the mail and they don’t turn up on time, it could impact your health.

Use the local pharmacy near you, if you have one, and ask them if they have a delivery service, many do these days and that service is often provided by drivers who work for the pharmacy, so you can be assured your drugs are going to turn up.

The world we live in at the moment is still in turmoil because of Covid-19 and it’s going to be for a while yet.

But that doesn’t mean you have to further sacrifice your health, for the sake of a little convenience and saving a few dollars.