Rx Consumers Prefer Pharmacies Over Mail

  Employers favor cost savings through mail-order plans 

 Two-thirds of users of 30-day chronic medications would be extremely or very likely to switch to a 90-day supply option if it were available through a community retail pharmacy, according to research by Walgreens.

A December 2010 random sample of 1,000 U.S. consumers who had filled a prescription in the previous three months revealed what Walgreens called "an overwhelming majority's desire for face-to-face interaction with their pharmacist and for the choice of where their prescriptions are filled."

"One way to improve medication adherence and compliance is by allowing patients to receive 90-day supplies of chronic medications at their community pharmacy," said Walgreens President and CEO Greg Wasson in a released statement. "Today, some patients still are only able to receive a 90-day supply through a mail-order option designed by their prescription plan administrator."

Walgreens President of Pharmacy Services Kermit Crawford added, "The role of the pharmacist in the health care system has steadily evolved for some time, and it's clear if people have questions or concerns about their medications, they want to be able to rely on the pharmacist they know, trust and are confident talking to about their health. We also know that an approximately 15 percent increase in adherence to medications occurs for consumers receiving a 90-day prescription vs. those receiving a 30-day supply."

There is an approximately 15 percent increase
 in adherence for those receiving a 90-day
 prescription vs. those receiving a 30-day supply.

Employers Favor Mail-Order Plans

Traditionally, employers have negotiated lower rates for prescription medications purchased by members directly from the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) using a mail-order plan.

A 2008 study by consultancy Mercer found that virtually all pharmacy benefit plans provided a mail-order option. In 77 percent of the plans, members had a co-pay incentive to obtain drugs through the mail. A small portion penalized members who didn't use the mail-order option for maintenance drugs: 6 percent required an additional co-pay from members who continued to use retail pharmacies after a specified number of fills, and 10 percent discontinued retail coverage altogether. In addition, 36 percent of plan sponsors used targeted communication to educate members on the value of the mail-order plan.

Similarly, a 2009 survey by Medco, a PBM with mail-order operations, found that 70 percent of U.S. health plan sponsors believed that mail-order pharmacies helped members stick to essential drug therapies, and nearly half believed that mail-order pharmacists did a better job at identifying adherence problems.

In addition, Medco found that annual health care costs for hypertensive patients using a 90-day mail-order supply saw a $700 per-patient annual reduction attributable to increased adherence to prescribed drug therapy compared with those purchasing a 30-day supply through a retail pharmacy (see the SHRM Online article "Rx Trends: Employers Crunch Data, Add Clinical Management to Pharmacy Programs").

Retail Program Shows Savings

In 2010 Walgreens, working with clients of Navitus Health Solutions, a PBM, began offering 90-day supplies of medications at retail through its store network. In the first seven months, Navitus clients saved $3.3 million with the 90-day program, according to Walgreens.

"As we provide additional tangible savings results from our work with clients like Navitus, we are confident that more payers and employers will welcome the opportunity to provide their members and employees the option of 90-day supplies at their community pharmacy," said Walgreens Health and Wellness division President Hal Rosenbluth.

Convenience Counts

In addition, Walgreens' survey found that most prescription purchasers:

Believe it is important for them to know and trust their pharmacist so that they can feel comfortable asking questions related to their medications (93 percent).

• Trust getting their prescriptions filled by a local retail pharmacist more than mail when considering the convenience and safety factors involved (84 percent).

• Think the convenience of getting their prescription filled while they wait is important (over 70 percent).

Think the convenience of being able to pick up prescriptions while shopping for other items is important (over 60 percent).



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