By B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA
Liberty Medical Supply, Inc., made iconic (or infamous depending on your perspective) by pitchman Wilford Brimley and allegedly one of the biggest purveyors of mail order waste, has fallen on hard financial times, recently filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. While the company’s future may be uncertain, mail order waste is alive and well.
For years the community pharmacists who comprise NCPA’s members have voiced patient complaints of auto-shipping by mail order companies like Liberty Medical. About a year ago NCPA staff began compiling and documenting these examples of waste in an online compilation entitled “Waste Not, Want Not.”
Consider just a few examples received from NCPA members of waste from Liberty Medical shared here.
“These items were brought in by a customer for a family member who just entered a nursing home. They were not ordered, just automatically shipped regularly by Liberty Medical. I assume taxpayers paid for all this through Medicare.”
“The picture represents my mother’s diabetes medications that were auto-shipped to her from Liberty mail order pharmacy during a 2 year period. The cost for these products represents $442.50 per year of waste in the system that you and I as taxpayers paid for. Multiply this by the number of diabetic patients in this country, over 21 million, and the numbers are astronomical: $9.3 billion in potential waste and abuse in the diabetes community alone when provided by mail order companies.”
“Albuterol and Budesonide, 1,200 doses from Liberty Medical, billed to Medicare Part B. The patient only brought in what was outdated and said she had 3 to 4 times that much at home still and they send more each month.”
For some time, Liberty Medical was owned and operated by pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) Medco Health Solutions, now part of Express Scripts. Express Scripts sold the company in December.
Increasingly federal health officials are paying closer attention to mail order waste. Ultimately one solution to this problem is giving patients greater choice, letting the marketplace work rather than steering patients into mail order, and thereby deterring unpopular PBM patient practices, such as auto-shipping.