NCPA Offers Solutions to Maintain Patient Access to Life-Saving Medications Despite Planned Reduction in Mail Service

Alexandria, VA - July 12, 2010

 

In today's National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) letter to the United States Postal Regulatory Commission, the association described how independent community pharmacies can help meet patient needs in the face of proposed reductions in mail delivery services, such as ending Saturday delivery.

"The hand-wringing about what losing a day of mail services means for patients is overblown, because common sense remedies are available through independent community pharmacies," said Douglas Hoey, RPh, NCPA Acting Executive Vice President and CEO. "Evidence suggests that Americans, whether they live in densely or sparsely populated areas, have access to independent community pharmacies that can fill the void, even providing home delivery services. Patients overwhelmingly prefer the face-to-face interaction with their local pharmacists, who can improve medication adherence. So measures that allow this to occur more often will help create better health outcomes."

Hoey added, "If the leadership of the U.S. Postal Service determines that budget shortfalls require fewer delivery days they should understand independent community pharmacies are ready and willing to offer their assistance."

What follows is the entire text of the letter:

July 12, 2010
Ruth Goldway, Chairperson
United States Postal Regulatory Commission
901 New York Ave., NW, Suite 200,
Washington, DC, 20268-0001

Subject: Impact of Potential Changes in Mail Service on Prescription Medication Availability
Dear Chairman Goldway:

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) is writing to present our views on the impact on patients' access to prescription medications if the Postal Service modifies its current mail delivery schedule. NCPA represents the interests of owners, managers, and employees of the nation's independent community pharmacies. Together these independent pharmacies represent an $88 billion health-care marketplace, employ over 65,000 pharmacists, and dispense over 40% of all retail prescriptions.

Written testimonies to the United States Postal Regulatory Commission and U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security from representatives of mail service pharmacies have overstated the negative impact on patient access that can result from reducing mail delivery. We understand that patients need to have ready access to their prescription medications, and appreciate that adherence to medications is critical if health care costs are to be managed and patients' quality of care is to be maintained.

NCPA believes that other options exist to ensure patient access to needed medications if changes are made to mail delivery. These include eliminating mandatory mail order programs that deny patients the opportunity to receive medications from their local community pharmacist, as well as utilizing home delivery programs where community pharmacists deliver medications to the patient's doorstep.

Currently there are almost 23,000 independent community pharmacies located throughout the United States. Over half of these pharmacies are located in areas with a population of under 20,000 people. Based upon an internal analysis performed by NCPA using Census data and National Council for Prescription Drug Programs data, approximately 87% of all Americans are located within a 5 mile radius of an independent community pharmacy. The typical independent community pharmacy is open 6 days a week, and many are also on call for times when the pharmacy is closed. If the United States Postal Service was to modify delivery schedules, most patients would not only be able to receive their medication, but they would also benefit from face to face person counseling from a trusted, local community pharmacist.

One study by J.D. Power & Associates found that 61% of patients using a mail order pharmacy are forced to do so due to mandates or differential copayments. Considering that most patients that are in mandatory mail order programs have convenient access to a local community pharmacist, we believe that many patients will welcome the removal of mandatory mail order programs, allowing for greater competition between pharmacies, and provide for greater access and choice of pharmacy provider.

Another private market solution is to encourage the use of home delivery. According to data collected for the 2009 NCPA Digest, sponsored by Cardinal Health, 81% of independent community pharmacies surveyed provide home delivery, a service where the pharmacy will deliver medication to the patient's doorstep. For many pharmacies, this service is often provided free of charge, and is an excellent way to ensure that seniors and rural patients with limited access to transportation can continue to access their medications.

When weighing the impact on patient access to mail order prescriptions from modifying mail delivery, NCPA encourages the Postal Commission to remember that private market solutions exist between pharmacies, pharmacy benefit managers, and health plans to maintain patient access to medications. Thank you for your time and the opportunity to share our concerns.

Sincerely,

John M. Coster, PhD, RPh
Senior Vice President, Government Affairs

cc: The Honorable Joseph Lieberman
The Honorable Daniel Akaka
The Honorable John McCain
The Honorable Thomas Carper
The Honorable Susan Collins
The Honorable Edolphus Towns
The Honorable Darrell Issa
The Honorable Stephen Lynch
The Honorable Jason Chaffetz

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA®) represents America's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 22,700 independent community pharmacies, pharmacy franchises, and chains. Together they represent an $88 billion health-care marketplace, employ over 65,000 pharmacists, and dispense over 40% of all retail prescriptions. To learn more go to www.ncpanet.org or read NCPA's blog, The Dose, at http://ncpanet.wordpress.com.

Ask Your Family Pharmacist TM