The alarming changes at the United States Postal Service are actively harming Americans. The sudden lack of overtime, removal of mail sorting machines, and sabotage of the USPS to perform its basic functions are causing medication delivery delays.
Americans depend on mail order medications. A Kaiser health study in 2019 revealed more than 9 million prescription drug orders were sent by mail in one state alone.1 Veterans rely on the post office. In a single year, the VA’s mail order pharmacy processed nearly 120 million outpatient prescriptions, 80% of which are sent by mail.2
Studies have suggested that mail order pharmacy utilization is correlated with better medication adherence for patients with chronic conditions. Mail order pharmacy use is also associated with better outcomes and decreased health care costs, incentivizing insurance companies to preferentially cover mail order prescriptions.3
Patients from across the nation are reporting medications delays. Prescriptions including anticoagulants, cardiac medications, diuretics, transplant-related immunosuppressants, anti-seizure agents, anti-depressants, inhalers, insulin, oral chemotherapy, and injectable biologics are not arriving to patients in a timely manner or arriving in improper conditions (i.e no access to prompt refrigeration).
For many patients, obtaining their prescriptions at a brick and mortar pharmacy is not feasible. We are reluctant to encourage our highest risk patients – senior citizens and immunocompromised patients – to leave their homes during a pandemic and be exposed to Coronavirus. Patients in rural and remote areas live hours away from the nearest pharmacy. Certain medications are not stocked at local pharmacies. Insurance companies may only pay for some medications if they are ordered by mail. It is simply too expensive for many Americans to get their prescriptions filled at pharmacy. A 3-month supply of inhalers by mail is cheaper than a 30 day bottle from a neighborhood drugstore.
Patients are becoming ill and their lives are put at unnecessary risk due to these postal delays. Missed doses can lead to heart failure or tumor recurrence. Asthmatics without inhalers and diabetics without insulin will land in the emergency room. A delay can mean a hospice patient dying without pain relief.
Doctors for America is speaking out against the current attacks on the USPS because our duty as physicians’ demands that we advocate for the health of all our patients and ensure that they receive their medications in a timely manner.
We urge all medical societies to advocate for our communities and demand that the US Postal Service be restored to its full capacity. Our health and our lives depend on it.