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Mail-Order Pharmacy vs Internet Pharmacy: Benefits and brickbats

Mail-order pharmacies are similar to Internet pharmacies in more than one way. They facilitate people to order drugs via email; they offer drugs for low prices; they allow order tracking and customer support online and above all, they support health plans too.

Mail-order pharmacies started emerging from the year 2000. Increase in cost of health care led people to choose mail-ordering of prescriptions at cheap prices. Though mail-order pharmacies provide online support, not many of them function like full-fledged online pharmacies. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and brickbats of mail-order pharmacies compared to online pharmacies:

Benefits of Mail-order Pharmacies:

1. Convenient, easy to use and comfortable: Just like online pharmacies, mail-order pharmacies make things comfortable and convenient for people. You need not slog your way to your local pharmacy store and wait in lines there to get your prescriptions. You can just order via mail or via a PBM and get them delivered at the comfort of your home.

2. Safe and economical: You save money as every other drug is priced lower than in your local pharmacy store. It is also safe if the mail-order pharmacy is approved and licensed by the FDA, NABP or any such bodies. A retail pharmacy may deliver the goods instantly to you, but over the counter drugs may be costlier in a retail store than in a mail-order or online pharmacy.

3. Refills are simple: Ordering refill works just like in online pharmacies. If your prescription is current, most of the mail-order pharmacies allow you to order refills online or over phone. But not all of them remind you of the refill date like in the case of online pharmacies.

4. Special services: Some mail-order pharmacies function as both mail-order and internet pharmacies. They operate both online and offline, offering a plethora of benefits to customers. With some pharmacies, you can order refill medications online. Some send you reminders for refill through email or phone (online pharmacies do only through email). With mail-order pharmacies, you can speak directly to the pharmacist over phone and ask your doubts about over the counter drugs. A few pharmacies allow customers to check their order status both online and offline (via phone) and some go to the extent of having a physical pharmacy store for customer walk-ins.

5. Mail-order pharmacies and health insurance: If you are employed and your company offers a health insurance with drug benefit, you are most likely eligible for mail-ordering of drugs. Check your company’s health insurance plans or talk to the PBM or Pharmacy Benefit Manager agency hired by your company. PBMs are mediators between health plans, drug manufacturers and companies to get drugs for lower prices to company employees. Some of the greatest PBMs in the U.S. are Medco, Caremark, Express Scripts and others. Even drugstore chains like Walmart and Walgreens offer mail-order facilitates to customers. Some online pharmacies too offer the facility.

Brickbats on Mail-order Pharmacies:

1. Delay in delivery or delivery failure: This is often a worry with mail-order pharmacies. You cannot be sure whether your package will be delivered to you.

2. Reliability issues: With an online pharmacy, you can find out all the details about the pharmacy from the pharmacy’s site. But this is not the case with mail-order pharmacies. You need to rely only on what the pharmacist tells you or check FDA’s list of approved pharmacies.

3. Counterfeit Drugs: Can happen with some PBMs if they are fake. They sell you contaminated or expired drugs and you may incur serious health problems because of this.

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Mail-Order Pharmacy vs Internet Pharmacy: Benefits and brickbats

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