Analysis Finds 14 Million Medicare Part D and Large Employer Plan Enrollees Used Mail-Order Pharmacies Pre-Pandemic, Top Drugs Filled Were to Treat Chronic Conditions

With questions being raised about potential delays in U.S. Postal Service delivery, a new KFF data note estimates 14 million enrollees in Medicare Part D and large employer plans relied on mail-order pharmacies for at least one prescription in 2018, with a total of over 170 million prescriptions fulfilled.

The use of mail-order pharmacies has been rising in recent years as patients have often been incentivized or mandated to use mail service for convenience and potential cost savings. This year’s COVID-19 pandemic has further boosted the use of mail-order pharmacies as government officials imposed stay-at-home orders and people stocked up on prescriptions.

The analysis finds that drugs for cardiovascular conditions made up half of the top ten drugs fulfilled by mail order for both Medicare Part D and large employer plan enrollees. More generally, drugs to treat chronic physical conditions and depression were among the most filled mail order prescriptions in both types of markets analyzed. Among large employer enrollees, 10% of all oral contraceptive prescriptions were filled via mail-order pharmacy, placing them in the top ten.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.