Editorial - The rest of the story on mail order medicationsAn April 4 Echo Press editorial listed suggestions from the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants on how people could save money on their health care costs. On the surface, the first tip listed – getting medications through a mail order pharmacy – might seem reasonable, until you consider other factors.
An April 4 Echo Press editorial listed suggestions from the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants on how people could save money on their health care costs.
On the surface, the first tip listed – getting medications through a mail order pharmacy – might seem reasonable, until you consider other factors. Readers deserve to know the rest of the story.
First, consumers should realize that the Internet is rife with bogus pharmacies selling counterfeit drugs and medications that are brought in from outside the U.S. and don’t measure up in terms of quality. “One needs to be extremely careful,” said Jeff Lindoo, vice president, governmental and regulatory affairs for Thrifty White Pharmacies in Alexandria. “There are sites that are often illegitimate.” He said consumers should at the very least make sure the company is certified through the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites and carries the VIPPS seal.
Lindoo pointed out another concern with mail order pharmacies: People would be dividing the source of their medications between a local and non-local source. “People rely on the advice and guidance from their local pharmacist,” he said. “The pharmacist will know exactly what the medication is for, potential side effects and if there will be problems with other medications the patient is taking.” If customers get some of the their medications through a mail order company, it will hamper the local pharmacist’s ability to track all the medications their patients are using.
Julie K. Johnson, executive vice president and CEO of the Minnesota Pharmacists Association, was blunt about the risk of ordering medications through an unscrupulous online pharmacy. “The bottom line is that people could die – in fact, they have died,” she said.
Johnson added that trying to save money with a mail order pharmacy can backfire because it ultimately ends up hurting the local pharmacists whom local residents rely upon day in, day out, for personalized, face-to-face medication advice. There’s much more to a prescription than “pills in a bottle,” she noted, adding that pharmacists have spent several years studying drugs, how they interact and what’s best for their patients.
If a patient has a question or follow-up concerns about a new drug they’re taking, their local pharmacist is just a phone call or short drive away, unlike an online company that can be here one day and gone the next, she said.
A recent study found that 94 percent of consumers who shopped at independent drug stores were highly satisfied with their experience. Another study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association found that among consumers who were forced to fill prescriptions via mail order instead of local pharmacists, more than two-thirds returned to community pharmacists once those restrictions were lifted.
Those who think that mail order pharmacies, which are typically operated by a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), will always be the cheaper option are mistaken. Local pharmacists, when appropriate, often save their customers money by using less expensive generic drugs. PBMs, on the other hand, dispense generic drugs less frequently. From 2007 to 2010, local pharmacists dispensed generics 10 to 13 percent more often than PBMs. That can add up to substantial savings. One study concluded that every 2 percent increase in using generic drugs in Medicaid programs saves taxpayers an additional $1 billion annually.
These are all important factors consumers should consider before clicking around on the Internet for their medications. All things considered, they’ll find their safest, best source for prescription drugs and medications is not on the Net but just around the corner – at their local, trusted pharmacy.