Mail-order program offers savings and pharmacy choice

February 21, 2005

Last year several of the nations largest pharmacy chains publicly stated that they would not participate in prescription drug benefit plans that mandate the use of mail-order pharmacies. Retail pharmacies oppose mandated mail order because it does away with consumer choice and face-to-face counseling by a pharmacist.

Last year several of the nation's largest pharmacy chains publicly stated that they would not participate in prescription drug benefit plans that mandate the use of mail-order pharmacies. Retail pharmacies oppose mandated mail order because it does away with consumer choice and face-to-face counseling by a pharmacist.

Many mandatory mail-order programs are offered by pharmacy benefit managers, creating a conflict for these companies between managing prescription drug costs for the payer and selling drugs. PBMs that do not own mail-order pharmacies are not faced with this conflict, however.

MedImpact, a San Diego-based PBM, recently introduced a retail pharmacy-based program called Choice90RX that circumvents these problems. This program offers payers and members cost savings similar to those available through mail service while preserving consumer choice of retail or mail-order fulfillment and member access to their neighborhood pharmacist. Both options offer a 90-day supply of the prescription.

"Choice is the key word," Barre explained. "It is the choice of the pharmacy or pharmacy chain to participate, and it is the choice of the consumer as to what fulfillment channel is used."

"Our business model is unique, because we do not sell drugs or own a fulfillment channel," Brown said. "Given that we have no conflicting interests, we can provide a level playing field on which all fulfillment channel partners can play."

Brown went on to say that "from the pharmacists' perspective, we have seen a rapid adoption of the Choice90RX program, because they see that their pharmacy has an opportunity to serve all the consumers' needs: short-term medications, long-term medications, and over-the-counter products. We have broad participation by the major national and regional pharmacy chains, and we anticipate more than 62% of independent pharmacies nationwide." In addition, MedImpact is an approved sponsor of the Medicare drug discount card, he said.

According to Michael Polzin, a spokesman for Walgreens, Walgreens Health Initiatives also offers a 90-day retail program called Advantage90, which is very similar to Choice90RX "Such programs are an emerging trend in the industry," he said. "We've been offering our Advantage90 product for about a year now and have seen a great response to it. More than 100 prescription plans are signed up. What we have really found with Advantage90 is that 90-day refills-not the channel through which the prescription is filled-save payers money. We have also found that the average cost of a 90-day prescription filled through a retail pharmacy is about $15 less than that of a 90-day prescription filled by mail order."

Retail pharmacy realizes that it must be more competitive with mail-order pharmacy "to keep from losing volume, said Perry Cohen, Pharm.D., of The Pharmacy Group in Glastonbury, Conn. It took a while for retailers to sacrifice some revenue to compete in the marketplace, he observed.