By Michael Rule, Manager of Public Affairs and Grassroots Advocacy
For many consumers, the promise of mail order saving is a part of why they select this method of delivery. Internet and television advertisements tell them that if they order a product online or over the phone they can save on out-of-pocket costs and enjoy the added convenience of having the product delivered directly to their home. However, with pharmaceuticals, errors in shipment or delays in delivery can have serious consequences on a patient’s health.
Consumer surveys consistently rank mail order pharmacies much lower in overall patient satisfaction than their retail counterparts. We recently documented patient testimonials for their independent pharmacy, and we also launched a companion feature of patient experiences with mail order, entitled “Mail Order Doesn’t Deliver.” Through www.Fight4RX.org, which is a consumer portal to grassroots activism, these companion features allow readers to contrast consumer experiences between these two pharmacy options.
In one instance, a patient failed to receive his medication from the mail order pharmacy. In the patient’s words “This was the second time that my medication was lost or not delivered both at the expense of my health and my wallet.” As was noted in a previous posting, prescription drugs don’t work if a patient does not take them, and in this case the patient doesn’t have a choice, he has no medicine.
Another patient complained that a Dispense as Written (DAW) requested by the prescriber was ignored, noting “[The mail order pharmacy] sent Escitalopram Tabs, the generic form of Lexapro, without my consent, knowledge and contrary to the orders from my doctor. Since that date I took Escitalopram Tabs for 2 weeks and then began to notice huge changes in my system in regards to this medicine.” This runs contrary to the practices of independent community pharmacists which offer generic substitutions but only after consultation with the patient and their physician. Many times, familiarity with a patient means the community pharmacist is aware of a long-standing prescriber DAW or other patient preference.
While these types of patient experiences are common, unfortunately, plan designs don’t always offer patients a choice of pharmacy. This was summed up by a patient who lamented “I truly wish we had an option. I’d pay a higher copay to go through a retail pharmacy, but we have no choice.”
Examples such as these are telling. While mail order facilities claim to provide savings, the “savings” dissipate when patients receive incorrect medication or do not receive the medication at all. Consumers deserve choices in where and how they receive their prescription medication so they can select pharmacy options that best suit their individual healthcare needs.
Please feel free to provide your own examples of mail order mishaps in the comments section below.