5 Things to Consider Before Using a Mail Order Pharmacy

Convenience is a huge part of our daily lives, so is receiving prescriptions through the mail an example of one of these great opportunities or something to stray away from? A certain amount of importance should be placed when it comes to your prescription medications and making these decisions. I will talk you through the ins and outs of mail order pharmacies so you can make this crucial decision.

Are you considering a mail order pharmacy?

With mail order pharmacies some essential things to keep in mind when deciding where your medication is being supplied from include things like pricing, personal interaction, the best route for you, your medication regimen, and any other healthcare needs you may have. How to use mail order pharmacies or local pharmacies, or all the other numerous possibilities out there can be complicated. So let’s break down mail order pharmacies and the alternatives so you can decide what’s best for you.

Just convenience or are there more things to consider when choosing a pharmacy?

There are many important factors to think about when choosing a pharmacy to use. If you are looking for a convenient, easy way to receive medications a mail order pharmacy may come to mind, but we’ll take a look at all the options.

5 things you should consider before shipping your scripts through mail order:

  1. Price, price, price
  2. Your desired level of person to person interaction
  3. The best way for you to obtain your medication
  4. Your personal medication regimen
  5. Additional healthcare needs and opportunities

1. Price

When deciding where to receive your medications, you should see if mail order pricing is the best for you taking into account your medication. Your insurance is the main push in using mail order as it is beneficial to them. So seek out possible discounts your local pharmacies may offer on generic prescriptions that could be cheaper. Don’t just assume if your insurance is pushing you to go through mail order that there are no other alternatives routes.

2. Person to person interaction

It is easy to ask any necessary questions when picking up your prescriptions. This is eliminated when your order is coming through the mail. It becomes vital to take it upon yourself to reach out when you have pressing questions or concerns.

Without this interpersonal relationship with your pharmacist, you might not feel as comfortable or be able to build a certain level of trust when talking with them regarding your confidential information. Calling into these large companies, it is unlikely you will be in contact with the same pharmacist. So keep this in mind if this is something you value when deciding where to receiving your medications.

3. Your best option

It is essential to find out what options are available to you and what services you would like to use. If delivery is high on your priority list, mail order, online discount services, and your local pharmacies may have these opportunities available. If you are interested in the cheapest pricing, be sure to check discount programs as well as options through your insurance.

Some other things to be aware of are to establish what each pharmacy has to offer. Such as utilizing drive through features if you are unable to walk long distances. Another example like blister packs could be offered through your pharmacy to organize your monthly medications, so they are conveniently sorted into each day’s regimen. Each pharmacy can provide different services so keep this in mind.

4. Your medication regimen

Your medications may or may not be available on a local pharmacies discount list, or if you are going through your insurance is this the best pricing option? Medications vary between the person and what is covered varies through each insurance. So contact your insurance or speak with your pharmacist about the best opportunities to obtain your medication.

5. Additional healthcare needs

Other things to consider are health preventatives or screening opportunities, things like blood pressure checks or immunizations. If these are things you want to keep up on in between doctors visits, trips to your local pharmacy might be the better alternative.

With the opportunities to obtain immunizations without an appointment or the ability to pop into one of the blood pressure machines, you can receive convenient services locally and as frequently as needed.

How do mail order pharmacies work?

Mail order pharmacies have differences and similarities to your local pharmacy. If you are looking for an online route and want to go through your insurance proceeding through a mail order service might be that option.

For comparison’s sake, think of taking one of your local pharmacies and its customer base and blowing that up to a vast scale of proportions, imagine factory size, to accommodate their amount of customers. With that idea in mind, they are receiving and filling a giant amount of prescriptions across a wide audience of people.

To accommodate these proportions of people a large corporate based amount of people is necessary, and each must play an essential role from start to finish.

Here is a visual example of a prescription’s life cycle through a mail order pharmacy:

  1. Your prescription starts at your doctor’s office (new medicines) or at a current pharmacy (refills or prescriptions kept on file).
  2. It is then sent over by whatever means (faxed, electronically or verbally) by your doctor or is transferred from your pharmacy by the mail order pharmacy.
  3. Once received by the mail order pharmacy, technicians input the prescription into the system and through the patient’s insurance.
  4. The prescription is sent off to be verified by the pharmacist where it is sent through many steps depending on the individual patient and medication to ensure there are no medication interactions, allergy issues or any other possible discrepancies.
  5. Once the pharmacist verifies everything, it is then sent over to wherever the distribution center they are using is located (can be based on things like the region or the specific medication).
  6. The prescription is fulfilled as per the specific medication and prescription amount. The pharmacist at this facility then checks to make sure that the drug is filled correctly through these steps of the process.
  7. The prescription is packed in whatever is necessary for its journey home (whether that means refrigeration packs or ensuring the medication is packed to arrive safely).
  8. The prescription is boxed and shipped out.
  9. The medication is then finally delivered to your residence.

This is one broad example of a prescription’s travels through a mail order pharmacy. Many different companies facilitate these operations, and their processes will follow a similar path but may not but completely in line with this example. Some mail order pharmacies have some in house facilities in the same location as their offices where they are inputting and analyzing the prescriptions. They vary from company to company.

Like many things relating to medications and pharmacy practice, each place is a little different. A lot of smaller parts are in the works to ensure each piece fits together, so you are receiving the medication you were intended to correctly. 

Benefits of a Mail Order Pharmacy

  • Many people touch your prescription throughout the workflow increasing ability to catch potential errors.
  • Autoship feature
  • Accessibility to specific specialised medications
  • Ease of delivery through the mail

Cons of a Mail Order

  • No in-person relationships
  • Autoship can lead to oversupply or unneeded medications
  • No counseling on new medications
  • Hard to reach pharmacists if you have a question
  • Can long delays on getting medications
  • Potential for lost prescriptions during shipment
  • Delivery to wrong address if you have multiple residences
  • Miss out on local discounts, programs, or offers are local pharmacy

There are some specific benefits, as well as, disadvantages of using a mail order pharmacy. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of what you are looking for your healthcare and what makes the most sense for you as an individual.

It is not a surprise that mail order pharmacies are big entities that have many employees and many departments available. So they are at an advantage when it comes to numbers and using that in their favor. However, they are not immune to mistakes this still happens even regardless of the numerous steps that are taken to prevent it.

That being said, each new medication a patient receives is not counseled on, and a patient is not individually contacted when things like this popup. So it is reliant on the patient reaching out to the mail order pharmacies if they have questions regarding their medication.

This causes two issues, one the patient is forced to take a more significant role in handling their care and need to know when to reach out for help if they need it. Secondly, they are missing a vital step, even though you may think it is a nuisance every time you get a new prescription, and the pharmacist asks you if you have any questions, it is critical.

Things that a patient may not have thought of to ask, or even something that was being switched that they were unaware of can provide a check. These prime interaction opportunities allow a face to face dialect to ensure if something is needed at that time when you are picking up your prescription and allowing for it to be addressed.

The ability to put medications on auto fill can be a blessing and a curse. For you it might be a huge plus having peace of mind the medication you take regularly will show up whenever you need it. However, at the same token, if your doctor is adjusting doses or changing your medication regimen, it can lead to an overabundance of medication you don’t need.

So you keep shelling out money for unnecessary medication month after month until you contact them and tell them to stop. The best way to utilize a service like this is to use it for medications that you are on continuously and for long-term. That way it is hard for you to run out of them with them routinely delivered. If they are less likely to change you won’t end up with excess medication.

If you are someone who likes to travel or are “snowbirds”, mail order might not be what suites you best. Multiple addresses lead to the increased opportunity to mistakenly send it to another location. So you’re left having to fix the situation and end up missing necessary medication.

With retail pharmacies traveling can be made easy by transferring the prescription to whatever location necessary. All this takes is to talk to your pharmacist or bring in your prescription bottle of what you need transferred to the pharmacy you want to receive the medication (assuming you have refills and the prescription is transferable).

Mail order pharmacies do allow for specialized medication which may be something that a patient does not typically have access to. If they are in an area where it is not available or if they do not have means of transportation to the specific pharmacy, this is an option.

It is no secret that it is easy to have the medication delivered to your front door or mailbox. This is a huge plus for people who are not able to easily transport themselves and require such advantages. Alternatively, keep in mind that local pharmacies do sometimes deliver, there are drive through options and alternative ways to receive the medication.

Your local pharmacy may offer discount programs or additional services that can allow you to receive medications cheaper or even easier than through mail order. So it is important to review all of your available options.

What can be done so you don’t run out of medication?

Many times if you are trying to set up the switch over to mail order there is a time lapse between receiving your medications. So here are something’s you can do in the meantime to ensure you do not go without them:

  • Contact your doctor they may have ideas to hold you over or samples available
  • Contact your local pharmacy
    • Even if you explain the situation about the switch they can help to use prescriptions you have on file and work through using cash prices, discount cards or even temporary small fill supplies through your insurance
  • Contact your insurance to see if they will allow a temporary supply from a local pharmacy
  • Look into online services if it is a medication that is not excessively expensive and you can purchase some through online discount sites this may be a viable option (make sure you have your doctor sends a prescription for what you need, do not use sites that do not require prescriptions)

It is essential to keep up with your medication regimen and make sure that you do not discontinue anything without properly notifying your doctor. If you are not going to receive your medication quick enough or if you cannot afford your medication it is important to reach out to your physician or pharmacist as they can give you many options to make sure your health needs are met.

Why do insurances require mail order?

Many insurances require mail order because it is a way for them to cut out the middleman and ultimately dictate the prices so they are able to increase profits. By doing this, they can take away the reimbursement they would generally need to pay to the pharmacy through whatever price they have negotiated.

So since your prescription benefit manager owns the mail order company, they can decrease cost by handling everything all in one unit they control and allowing them to increase their profit margin.

This is another example of insurance companies dictating care. They find their best ways to profit and direct patients down that path whether it is regulating what medications they cover or in this case where patients can receive their medications.

Can you opt-out of mandatory mail order?

Sometimes for maintenance medications, you can be forced into receiving medications through mail order. The best way to determine if you can opt out would be to contact your insurance directly or to see what your options are when picking health insurance (if that is an option).

If your insurance is one that requires mail order you can find out alternatives by talking with your local pharmacist to find other options. Generic prescription lists or discounts through your local pharmacy can sometimes be a cheaper option then using your insurance.

Additionally, online discount services can be another option to pursue if you want to receive medication delivered to you but not through your insurance. Some local pharmacies deliver or offer additional services that can have other benefits or outweigh using a mail order pharmacy.

How do I know if a mail order pharmacy is right for me?

It is crucial to assess your needs as an individual. If you think that you would be able to reach out regarding your medication when necessary and are on medication that is constant and long-term, you may be fine with a mail order pharmacy. On the other hand, if you are looking for a one-stop shop and have some additional benefits you are looking for and a local pharmacy can achieve these, this might be the better bet.

Insurance plan’s mail order pharmacy vs. other online pharmacy services

Mail order Pharmacy

  • Can use your insurance
  • Specialized medication and care available
  • Ease of delivery through mail

Alternative online Pharmacies

  • May be able to use insurance directly
  • May need to submit claim manually to insurance
  • Discounted cash prices
  • Ease of deciding where you want meds delivered to
  • May be able to buy online and pick up at local pharmacy

Alternative options to using a mail order pharmacy

  • Healthwarehouse.com delivery
  • Delivery by Blink Health
  • Local Independent pharmacy’s delivery

Healthwarehouse.com is an option for many supplies, they seem like they could be the Walmart of online pharmacies. They are an online discount service that offers your prescription needs for all family members, even pets, as well as many other products. They carry prescription medications, diabetic supplies, over the counter medications, and other home supplies. They look to cut costs by cutting out the “middleman”, so they purchase directly from manufacturers and offer the drug at these cheaper pricing options. See our review of Healthwarehouse.com for more detailed information.

Blink Health is an online discount prescription service that allows for cheap pricing options through, not only home delivery, but the opportunity to pick up at a local pharmacy. They offer different tiers of pricing based on how you receive your prescriptions. With the cheaper of the options being through home delivery. See our review and use our exclusive discount offer to see if Blink Health would be a good option for you.

Local independent pharmacies offer person to person services unique to local pharmacies. They provide personal service that makes sure you are not another number. Working with patients on their prescription regimen is at utmost importance. They allow hands on opportunities to show you how to take your insulin, how to use your inhaler or troubleshoot your blood sugar meter’s sudden blank screen. They offer many things other online services simply cannot.


  • Prescription required
  • Cannot use insurance
  • Very discounted cash pricing
  • Free USPS standard shipping
  • Upgraded shipping options available
  • US based pharmacy
  • Top-notch customer service
  • NABP Verified

Blink Health

  • Prescription required
  • Cannot use insurance
  • Very discounted cash pricing
  • Free USPS first class home delivery
  • Best discounts through home delivery option but limited drugs
  • Can order online and pick up locally
  • NABP Verified

Local Independent

  • Prescription required
  • CAN use insurance
  • May offer free or low cost delivery to your home or workplace.
  • Can go pick up at pharmacy if you need before scheduled delivery
  • Commonly have after hours service for emergencies

Controlled substances through the mail?

Controlled substances are available and can be delivered through your local pharmacy. They can give you the added assurance that your control medication will be provided directly to you, not just left on your doorstep. Some companies allow for credit or debit cards for ease of payment for delivery purposes. Other pharmacies require cash payments upon delivery. The best way to find out specific protocol would be to talk to your local pharmacist

Healthwarehouse.com has the availability of delivering controlled substances but not scheduled II medications. Keep in mind that when using these services, they still follow laws and require prescriptions. You can also upgrade the shipping, so a signature is required when your medication is delivered to ensure you receive it.

BlinkHealth does not deliver controlled substances or scheduled II medications. However, they do have offers on controlled substances through their local contracted pharmacies. Additionally, they offer medicine that is in a private unmarked box so that there is not a clear indication that it is prescription medication.

When should I stick to my local retail pharmacy?

There are some great services available through your local pharmacies. When you are out you can pick up a prescription, ask questions, receive a flu shot, get your blood pressure checked, as well as, many additional services. Local pharmacies can provide a lot of in-person things that are important to sustaining your health.

Imagine how hard it would be to try and get help over the phone if you accidentally dumped and mixed all of your medications. Having an accessible pharmacist face to face can allow them to take that time to help you sort things out and get you back in working order. Some things are just easier to take care of and are better understood when you are able to see and interact with the pharmacist.

The services pharmacies offer are vast and vary so if there is something specific you need it might be available and accessible to you right around the corner.

Final Thoughts

Many factors play a role in choosing a pharmacy. Being able to make informed decisions on the best options for you should be weighed with great importance. With mail order pharmacy options it is essential to consider the positives and negatives to their uses. Local pharmacies offer so many added benefits as well, and you should not hesitate to reach out to them to see the best way to manage your medications.


As a practicing community pharmacist in his home state of Michigan, Joe (AKA TheFrugalPharmacist) is always on the lookout for new information and ways to ensure you can afford your medications and don't get ripped off in America's complicated world of healthcare.

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