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Mail-Order Pharmacy Users Less Likely to Visit Emergency Rooms

Getting your drugs by mail rather than meeting face-to-face with a pharmacist may not have a negative impact on your health, according to a new study.

The research, from California’s Kaiser Permanente, found that patients with diabetes who received prescribed heart medications through the mail were less likely to visit the emergency room than those who picked up prescriptions at the drugstore.

That’s good news for those who might have worried that missing out on face-to-face contact with a pharmacist was a potential detriment to their health.

“Overall, we didn’t see any safety concerns,” said Julie A. Schmittdiel, PhD, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and the study’s lead author. “For the vast majority of people, mail order pharmacy works well.”

The study included 17,217 Kaiser Permanente patients with diabetes who were taking heart medication, and over the course of three years found that 33.8 percent of those receiving drugs by mail visited the emergency room, compared to 40.2 percent of those who visited the facility’s pharmacy.

The study did not look at possible reasons why the use of mail order pharmacies was associated with fewer emergency room visits, but the results were in line with previous research from Schmittdiel, who found that those using mail-order pharmacists not only had better drug adherence, but also did significantly better managing their cholesterol levels.

Her new study appeared in a recent issue of the American Journal of Managed Care.

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