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    Remember When: Mail-order pharmacy appeared to be losing momentum

    On July 20, 1992, a Drug Topics cover story posed the question, “Is Mail Order bombing?”

    That story outlined the controversy mail-order pharmacy had created, including reports of medication mix-ups endangering or killing patients, and alleged unfair practices by insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers.

    A separate story in that same issue was titled, “Rite Aid takes on mail order in Maine.” It reported that Rite Aid had acquired 27 Wellby Super Drug Stores in Maine and immediately pulled those employees out of an insurance plan that forced them to fill prescriptions through the mail.

    Not the smoothest of starts

    Both stories suggested mail-order pharmacy had not lived up to its billing. “It was a fad that hasn’t worked. Many of those who bought into mail order have found their costs continuing to rise,” Robert Johnson, then CEO of PCS Inc., told Drug Topics.

    Many pharmacists clearly hoped that mail order—and the threat it posed to brick-and-mortar pharmacies—would dissipate. Others called that wishful thinking. “It’s good PR for competitors to say we’re not growing,” Dell Konner of the American Managed Care Pharmacy Association said. “If you repeat something often enough, people start to believe it.”

    According to the story, mail-order pharmacy had jumped from $100 million in sales in 1981 to $3 billion in 1991. 

    Mark Lowery, Editor
    Mark Lowery an Editor for Drug Topics magazine.

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