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Home / News & IndustryManaged Care Insight and Analysis
Updated: October 19, 2010
Mail Order Medicine: Just What The Doctor Ordered

In what they say is a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., found that patients who buy their prescription drugs through the mail are more likely to stick to their doctor-prescribed medication regimen. This was especially true of patients with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

"Research in this area has traditionally focused on patient factors for poor adherence, leading to a ‘blame the patient’ approach for non-adherence," said Dr. O. Kenrik Duru, assistant professor in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and the study’s lead researcher.

"Our findings indicate that mail-order pharmacies streamline the medication acquisition process, which is associated with better medication adherence," he added.

Study researchers analyzed 2006 and 2007 medication refill data from 13,922 Kaiser Permanente members in Northern California. They defined "good adherence" as having medication available and on hand at least 80 percent of the time.

They found that 84.7 percent of patients who received their medications by mail at least two-thirds of the time stuck to their physician-prescribed regimen, versus 76.9 percent who picked up their medications at Kaiser Permanente pharmacies.

In a recent survey, Kaiser Permanente members listed mail-order pharmacy among the top benefits of managing their health via Kaiser Permanente’s personal health record, My Health Manager. More then 3.4 million members use My Health Manager to conveniently view lab results, refill prescriptions, schedule appointments and securely email their doctors.

"Our findings suggest that there is a lot that health care systems can do to provide support that makes it easier for patients to take care of themselves and do the right thing," said Julie Schmittdiel, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente’s division of research.

Other findings include:

  • Whites were more likely to use mail-order more than Asian/Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, blacks and people of mixed race; and
  • Mail-order pharmacy users were more likely than local pharmacy users to have a financial incentive to fill their prescriptions by mail and live a greater distance away from a local pharmacy.

These findings need to be confirmed by a randomized controlled trial, Duru said.

Still, this research suggests that increased mail-order use to obtain medications could improve patients’ adherence.

Grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Diabetes andDigestive and Kidney Diseases funded this study.

The study was published in the American Journal of Managed Care.

For more information on UCLA, visit

  This article was taken from:
The Executive Report on Managed Care

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