The Key Ingredient to Meeting Mail-Order Prescription Demand

Though 87 percent of doctors already viewed telehealth as an advantage in treating patients, virtual visits surged under stay at home orders.

Between March and April, virtual urgent care appointments at NYU Langone Health increased by 683 percent. Mail-order pharmacy orders rose dramatically, too. CVS reported a 10-fold increase in prescription deliveries after they waived fees, as health insurance companies encouraged consumers to sign up for 90-day mail-order prescriptions to avoid running out of their medications.

The surge created a serious challenge for pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs): how to quickly ship prescriptions to patients, meet government requirements for pharmaceutical packaging, and improve sustainability in the process. What can PBMs do to meet the increased demand while protecting prescriptions with the correct packaging? Here’s what to know.

When plain is preferred
Despite the money required for marketing pharmaceuticals, a medication’s outer packaging must be plain and unmarked before it can be shipped to a patient. The only information allowed to be printed on a package is the recipient’s address, according to the latest HIPAAregulations. Durable flat bagging is often the most cost-effective solution, particularly for tablets and capsules that ship in sturdy plastic bottles.

Ideally, the bags used for shipping should be strong enough to avoid tearing during rough handling by carriers. Tamper-evident packaging is also recommended.Considerpoly bags as a solution, which are durable and able to withstand shipping challenges.

Keep medications cool and comfortable
Vaccine shipments will surge this year, from 170 million doses to 190 million doses. This means the biological materials in them will need to be protected from fluctuating temperatures, and the fragile vials themselves will require cushioning to prevent crushing, vibrations, and shock during shipping. There are a variety of protective materials that can help prevent movement in the package and cushion these delicate vials when shipping inside of a box.

Additionally, some specialty medications, such as insulin, will need to be shipped in temperature-sensitive packaging. If they are exposed to extreme temperatures, these drugs may lose their potency, and even worse, harm the patient. For PMBs, packaging that works with cold chain solutions can help keep these drugs at the right temperature by deflecting heat, sealing in cold and insulating the temperature range to prevent freezing.

Ending the bag lag
One of the biggest challenges for poly bagging prescriptions lies in the bagging speed itself. The uptick in mail-order pharmacies has added pressure to the speed needed to get medications out the door and into patients’ hands. Still, it takes time to open bags, push out excess air, seal, and label them.

However, using automated poly bagging machines can greatly reduce the time it takes to pack an order. These machines open the bag so workers can insert the prescription, remove excess air, and seal it. The machines print labels directly on bags too. It’s possible to quadruple output this way, ensuring patients receive medications quickly and efficiently.

Treat patients — and the planet — with kindness
About 88 percent of consumers look to companies for help protecting the environment — but more mail-order shipments equals more waste.

Printing labels directly on mailer bags makes them easier to recycle. While bags can’t reveal their contents, they can have How2Recycle information printed on them, which provides guidance on how to recycle the bags. Additionally, using bags with recycled content helps with sustainability efforts.

Meeting regulations at the right speed
PBMs have an opportunity to increase their revenue due to the increase in telehealth and mail-order prescriptions. To meet the demand, they’ll need to provide medications to patients faster than ever before. And, to minimize impact on the environment, they’ll want to use recycled and recyclable materials.

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