(Washington, DC) — Consumers receiving their prescription medications for chronic conditions through a mail-service pharmacy “were more likely to take them as prescribed by their doctors than did patients who obtained them from a local pharmacy,” according to a new study published in the American Journal of Managed Care. The study is the first to suggest that the use of mail-service pharmacies can improve patient outcomes, adding a new dimension to existing peer-reviewed and government research showing that mail-service pharmacies make far fewer errors and cost consumers less than “brick-and-mortar” pharmacies, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) said today.

“While everyone knew that mail- service pharmacy made prescriptions more affordable, this new empirical evidence shows that it can also improve outcomes for patients with chronic conditions. This should be an ‘eye-opener’ for any policymaker who wants to address the chronic care crisis in America,” said PCMA President and CEO Mark Merritt.

Key findings from UCLA and Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research include:

  • 84.7 percent of patients who received their medications by mail at least two-thirds of the time stuck to their physician-prescribed regimen, versus 76.9 percent who picked up their medications at “brick and mortar” Kaiser Permanente pharmacies.
  • Mail-order pharmacy users were more likely than local pharmacy users to have a financial incentive to fill their prescriptions by mail (49.6 percent vs. 23.0 percent), and to live a greater distance away from a local pharmacy (8.0 miles vs. 6.7 miles).

Other government and independent research has examined the increased savings and safety provided by mail-service pharmacies. That research includes:

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC found that mail-order pharmacies provide more savings than retail pharmacies and dispense lower-cost generic drugs at roughly the same rate as retail pharmacies. The report also found that “prescription drug plan sponsors generally paid lower prices for drugs purchased through PBM-owned mail-order pharmacies than for drugs purchased through mail-order or retail pharmacies not owned by PBMs.”
  • Harvard University. Independent, peer-reviewed research conducted by Harvard University and published in 2004 by Health Affairs, analyzed some 670 million prescription drug claims and concluded that generic drug substitution rates at PBM mail-service pharmacies were slightly higher than at retail pharmacies.
  • Pharmacotherapy: Official Journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy. Peer reviewed data found that highly automated mail-service pharmacy dispensed prescriptions with 23-times greater accuracy than retail pharmacies. The mail-service error rate was zero in several of the most critical areas, including dispensing the correct drug, dosage, and dosage form.