Pharmacist: Mail Order Drugs Hurting Oklahoma Pharmacies, Patients

Wednesday, October 19th 2011, 5:14 pm
By: News On 6

Tara Vreeland, News On 6

OWASSO, Oklahoma -- Independent pharmacists are fighting mail order companies over where patients should fill their prescriptions. The pharmacists say mail order prescriptions should not be made mandatory for state employees.

Those pharmacists say it's a lose-lose for both the pharmacies and the patients. 

Oklahoma Pharmacy Association says Oklahoma is at risk of losing money and jobs if mail order prescriptions become the norm. Pharmacists says that's lost business, and the patients are unhappy about not having a choice.

One-on-one interaction is something pharmacist Kathy Campbell says you can't get when prescriptions are ordered through the mail.

Campbell says it's a relationship built on trust. But Campbell's Owasso pharmacy is losing business.

"I can't compete when somebody takes and says we're not going to let you participate. That's frustrating. That is frustrating," said pharmacist Kathy Campbell.

In August, the Oklahoma State Education and Employees Group Insurance Board made mail order prescriptions mandatory for all state employees.

Campbell says last quarter, she filled 1,500 prescriptions for state employees, about 15 percent of her total volume.

"It's not a savings for employees as much as it is a profit center for the insurers," Campbell said. "They are making a lot of money off of the health and well being of their employees."

Cost is the primary driver for meds in the mail. Some customers prefer the ease and consistency of getting bigger quantities for less money.

Campbell says consequences can come from that convenience.

"These drugs are having to come in through the heat, through the cold. They are being delivered and set on the front door step," she said.

Campbell says billions of dollars are spent every year with medication errors. She says mail order simply writes the professional out.

"There is no choice. You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit. That's basically where we all are, and I think it's time we say enough," said Owasso pharmacist Kathy Campbell.

Campbell says the pharmacies can opt to be a part of the new plans. But they have to accept a below cost reimbursement for the drugs.