What is a Mail Order Pharmacy (Home Delivery Pharmacy)?

My most popular post ever is “What is a PBM?” which made me think that this is probably a relevant post for the average healthcare consumer.  And, given the historical push to mail combined with the current economy, you can expect mail order pharmacy (or home delivery pharmacy) along with 90-day retail pharmacy to be a hotter topic.

At Silverlink Communications, we work with a lot of companies on their retail-to-mail (RTM) communications strategy and execution.  One of the first things I point out to all of them is that over 50% of people don’t usually know what mail order pharmacy is.  So, you have to address awareness at the same time as recruiting new patients.

So, for all of you that receive a letter or call talking to you about moving your prescription to mail order, let me answer a few of your basic questions:

  • Mail order pharmacies are also called home delivery pharmacies since they deliver your medications through the mail and directly to your home (or other address provided).
  • The mail order pharmacy is typically owned by either your managed care company (aka health insurer) or by a pharmacy benefit management company that your insurer contracts with directly to provide this service.
  • There is typically only one mail order pharmacy that you can use (i.e., is considered “in-network”).
  • The service is typically the fulfillment of 90-day prescriptions of medications which you will take on a long term basis (aka maintenance medications).  This is not true for controlled substances which typically only allow a 30-day prescription and for some specialty and injectable drugs.
  • You often have a financial incentive to choose mail order where you will get a 90-day supply for less than it would cost you to buy three 30-day prescriptions at your local pharmacy.  This discount is due to the buying power of the mail pharmacy, the automation which reduces the costs of dispensing the drugs, and the lower distribution costs (i.e., no need to move the drug to all 5,000 retail locations).
  • The drugs are the same drugs you buy at your local pharmacy.
  • You have the same access to a pharmacist but it is over the phone not face to face (which I personally prefer and think is more confidential).
  • You can do your refills over the IVR (interactive voice response) line and over the Internet along with traditional means of live agents and using snail mail.
  • These mail order pharmacies use robotics and other highly sophisticated solutions to dispense the drugs accurately and quickly.
  • Many of the mail order pharmacies that we work with offer services around calling your physician to get new prescriptions and also use our automated outbound calls to provide you with order status (WISMO calls – what is the status of my order) and refill reminders.
  • You shouldn’t typically start a new drug at mail order.  You want to wait until you have had two fills locally to make sure you are titrated to the right strength (i.e., your MD might switch your dosage initially so you don’t want to buy too much supply of a drug you might not use).


  1. Mail Order Prescriptions Dropped 9.2% – WOW! | Enabling Healthy Decisions - June 17, 2014

    […] some people running mail order pharmacies, this analysis is no big surprise.  They’re running off to their boss to show them that […]

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