Have you ever had trouble paying for your prescription medications? If so, you are part of a growing group of Medicare beneficiaries who have trouble covering medication costs. According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), even with Medicare Part D benefits, more than 30% of seniors say they struggle to pay for the medications they need. The study also revealed that 21% of older adults “did not take their medicines as prescribed at some point … because of the cost.”
Unfortunately, not taking medications as prescribed means that many older adults have potentially put their health at risk due to drug costs. If you’ve had to make this choice or have thought about making this choice, you may be wondering if there are more affordable options, such as mail order.
If you’re like most consumers though, you have some questions about using a mail order pharmacy, such as: Are shipping delays common? Will my medicines be damaged or ruined in transit? What will I do if there are errors or if I run out before my order arrives? These and other questions are legitimate, and we’ll provide some answers that may help you feel more comfortable about using mail order and, most likely, saving money in the process.
1. Are Shipping Delays Common?
Elixir Pharmacy*, as well as other mail order pharmacies, uses the U.S. mail and other carriers to deliver medicines to customers. While most of the millions of packages sent each day arrive on time (95% for UPS, 87% for FedEx and 78% for USPS during early 2021)[2,3], there’s always a chance that shipments could be delayed.
To account for this, many mail order pharmacies suggest that you order refills as soon as your plan allows, which is usually 60 days after the previous shipment. At that point, you should still have a month’s worth of medication on hand, and your new shipment should arrive well before you run out. If you’re worried that you might forget to order, you may be able to request email reminders. At Elixir Pharmacy, members can sign up for email communications, which include refill reminders, shipping confirmations and other updates. You could also use Elixir Pharmacy’s auto-refill system, which will automatically refill and ship your medications at just the right time.
2. What if Medications are Delayed or Lost?
Even with the best planning, delays and other issues could still happen, especially when there are unexpected events that prevent drivers from completing their deliveries. Medications that require temperature control are usually sent overnight, and other deliveries from Elixir Pharmacy generally take about 7 to 10 business days. If you’re in a hurry, you can opt for expedited delivery in most cases.
If your medication hasn’t arrived within the expected time frame, track your package (even the free standard shipping option includes tracking information from Elixir Pharmacy), or contact your pharmacy. If it seems that your medication won’t arrive before you run out, your mail order pharmacy can help by arranging a short-term fill at a local pharmacy or reshipping when possible.
3. Are Medications Protected During Shipment?
Most self-administered drugs that have to be taken on an ongoing basis – known as maintenance medications – require standard secure packaging. However, some medications, such as insulin, require temperature control or other special treatment to ensure they remain usable when they arrive.
In the case of temperature control, many factors must be considered, including:
- Expected time in transit
- Weather conditions along the route
- Expected outdoor temperatures upon arrival
- Drug maker’s guidance on drug’s temperature requirements
A software system typically helps mail order pharmacies manage all these details and provides instructions for the packaging and cold packs needed to best maintain proper temperatures in transit. While this is a complex process with many factors that are out of the mail order pharmacy’s control, Elixir Pharmacy has an excellent shipment record.
“In March 2022, Elixir Pharmacy filled more than 1,000 prescriptions that required temperature control, and during that time, we had one temperature-related quality report, and that occurred because the package wasn’t retrieved in a timely manner,” reports Mike Benson, director of customer service for Elixir. “We contact members before we ship medications that require refrigeration, and then we use next-day delivery, but members do sometimes forget or have other issues that prevent them from getting the medications in their refrigerators quickly,” Benson explains. He also adds that, in the one case, Elixir Pharmacy staff acted quickly to get replacement medication to the member so that there was no lapse in therapy.
4. What About Errors?
Mail order pharmacies employ pharmacy technicians and licensed pharmacists, both of whom are able to focus on filling prescriptions rather than answering phones and helping customers – as they have to at retail pharmacies. In addition, once medication orders are prepared, licensed pharmacists check them to ensure they are correct. Therefore, mail order pharmacies are likely to have high accuracy rates.
According to Benson, Elixir Pharmacy has a 99.99% accuracy rate. So, although errors do happen, they are extremely rare. However, if there seems to be an error or if you have concerns about your medications, you should contact your mail order pharmacy for assistance.
5. What Should You Look for in a Mail Order Pharmacy?
Mail order pharmacies may help you save money, but be sure to use only reputable, accredited pharmacies. To achieve accreditation by independent organizations such as URAC, the Accreditation Commission for Health Care and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, pharmacies must meet and maintain high standards of care and must have systems in place to be able to quickly address issues and ensure all customers receive the quality of care they deserve. Elixir Pharmacy is accredited as a mail service pharmacy, a specialty pharmacy and a digital pharmacy.
To achieve the mail service pharmacy accreditation, Elixir Pharmacy must:
- Promote safety and accuracy in dispensing practices
- Qualify all medication distribution processes for appropriate temperature ranges
- Provide 24/7 patient and prescriber support
- Comply with standards on risk management, consumer empowerment and performance management
- Report annual performance measures
Accreditation requirements are reviewed annually, and re-accreditation is typically required every three years.
Now is a Great Time to Try Mail Order
You probably already know that one huge benefit of using mail order pharmacies, such as Elixir Pharmacy, is convenience. Prescriptions are usually for 90 days rather than 30, so you only have to fill four times per year, which saves you the trouble of having to pick up your meds every month. Instead, you can have them delivered to your door, and standard shipping is always free from Elixir Pharmacy.
In addition, copays are often lower for 90-day prescriptions. That means your out-of-pocket costs could be a lot less compared to what you pay when you fill prescriptions at retail pharmacies. Hopefully, this will mean that you’ll never have to compromise your health to save money on your medications.
* Other pharmacies are available in our network. Visit elixirinsurance.com and select LOCATE PHARMACY for a complete list.
 A. Kirzinger, T. Neuman, J. Cubanski, M. Brodie. Kaiser Family Foundation (2019). Data Note: Prescription Drugs and Older Adults. https://www.kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/data-note-prescription-drugs-and-older-adults/
 T. Gryta. The Wall Street Journal (2021). FedEx Still Struggling With Late Deliveries. https://www.wsj.com/articles/fedex-still-struggling-with-late-deliveries-11622021580
 A. Picchi. CBS News (2021). On-time delivery plunges at U.S. Postal Service, with 1 in 5 pieces of mail arriving late. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/postal-service-louis-dejoy-delivery-10-year-plan/
 Mail Service Pharmacy Accreditation. URAC. https://www.urac.org/accreditation-cert/mail-service-pharmacy-accreditation/
S7694_22-6908_enewsletter 2022_C Reviewed 05/11/22
Elixir Insurance is a Prescription Drug Plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Elixir Insurance depends on contract renewal. For more information, please call our customer service number at 866-250-2005. TTY users call 711. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. ATTENTION: If you speak Spanish, language assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 866-250-2005 (TTY: 711). ATENCIÓN: si habla Español, los servicios de asistencia lingüística, sin cargo, están disponibles para usted. Llamada 866-250-2005 (TTY: 711).
Elixir Insurance, 8921 Canyon Falls Blvd., Suite 100, Twinsburg, OH 44087, United States