Mail-Order Prescriptions Said to Flow Without Major Disruptions

  • Mail-order market grows amid pandemic, Postal Service cutbacks
  • Pharmacy managers say they also use multiple vendors

Major pharmacy chains are dismissing fears that cuts at the U.S. Postal Service mean widespread delays to mail-order prescriptions as Democrats oppose the Trump administration’s changes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Representatives of Rite Aid Corp, Walgreens Pharmacy, OptumRx Inc., and Express Scripts Inc., all major pharmacy and pharmaceutical benefit manager chains, said they aren’t seeing major disruptions to order times for prescriptions this year.

“We use multiple vendor partners for deliveries and I can tell you we’re not experiencing delays,” Chris Savarese, a spokesman for Rite Aid, said in a telephone interview.

Walgreens primarily delivers prescriptions via the private courier service FedEx and local delivery partners, Kelli Teno, a company spokeswoman said.

CVS Health Corp., the other large U.S. pharmacy chain, didn’t return requests for comment.

That major portions of the U.S. pharmacy industry aren’t reporting delays to mail-order prescriptions may undercut claims that recent reductions at the Postal Service could stop some patients from receiving life-saving medications. More people are seeking prescriptions by mail, and pharmacy benefit managers—companies that administer health plans—rely heavily on the U.S. Post Service, Charles Cote, vice president for strategic communications for PCMA, a benefit manager industry group, said.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. Postal Service delivery trucks.

“At a time when the nation’s public health is already under significant threat, we’re deeply concerned and plan to investigate the impacts the Administration’s changes are having on the delivery of lifesaving prescription drugs to patients,” Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and Dianna DeGette (D-Colo.) said in a joint statement earlier this month.

The trio opened a congressional probe, sending letters to the major pharmacy chains demanding information about potential delivery delays for prescriptions caused by cutbacks at the U.S. Postal Services. Democrats have also warned that changes at USPS could undermine efforts to expand mail-in voting this year.

Patients’ Advocates Fear Postal Cuts

Dozens of patient-advocacy organizations on Tuesday wrote to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy raising concerns that changes to the Post Office could result in delays that may compromise patients’ health. While applauding his pledge to postpone further changes until after the election, the association, pushed DeJoy to reverse changes to package operations and delivery standards. The association was joined by groups including the Arthritis Foundation and the National Kidney Foundation.

Post Office Changes Could Slow Pill Shipments, Advocates Say

The total number of prescriptions being filled in the U.S. each week droppedto 72.2 million each week in 2020, from 73.5 million each week in 2019, according to data from IQVIA, which studies the pharmaceutical market. However, the number of prescriptions filled by mail order rose by an average of 6.5% between March and August compared with the same period in 2019, according to IQVIA data.

The number of prescriptions filled by mail order dropped slightly in 2019 from previous years, hitting 205 million prescriptions filled last year compared with 213.7 million in 2018. Americans got more than 2.3 billion prescriptions filled at chain stores in 2019, according to IQVIA.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at aruoff@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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