Once upon a time, boomers helped swell subscriptions for Mademoiselle and Rolling Stone. These days, the boomers are getting what amounts to regular subscriptions for drugs that control conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and diabetes.
“The trends are pretty clear,” says Dr. Edmund Pezalla, medical director at Prescription Solutions, Irvine, Calif., a pharmacy benefits manager that runs a mail order pharmacy. “As people get older, they need more chronic medication. They are more likely to use mail service.”
Executives at the pharmacy benefit managers, retail drug store chains and other organizations that run “mail order pharmacies” or “home delivery pharmacies” see the aging of the boomers as an opportunity to expand their operations dramatically while helping boomers improve management of their health.
For health insurance agents, brokers and carriers, the aging of the boomers may lead to more questions about the nuts and bolts of how a specific plan’s mail order pharmacy program actually works. For a client who depends on a mail order service for reliable deliveries of essential, life-preserving medication, the quality of the mail order pharmacy may be as important as the quality of the wellness benefits or the plan website.
Even for companies and professionals that focus on asset accumulation and income planning, learning about clients’ mail order pharmacies might be as important as learning about the magazines they read and the TV shows they watch because of the pharmacies’ hold on so many boomers’ mailboxes.
Even boomers who pay all bills online and direct all mail to the trash may be prompt about opening the boxes that contain their Lipitor pills or diabetic supplies.
Mail order pharmacies accounted for about 25% of all U.S. prescription drug sales in 2005, according to William Blair & Company, Chicago, an investment bank.
The mail order pharmacies ranked second in terms of market share when compared with the big chains, which had a 41% share, but ahead of the 20% share held by grocery stores and discount stores, and far ahead of the 14% share held by independent pharmacies.
In 2005, about 30% of the employers that belong to the National Business Group on Health, Washington, were requiring employees to use mail order pharmacies for some types of prescription drugs, and about 20% said they wanted to move to “mandatory mail” programs in the next year.