How USPS changes are affecting prescription deliveries: 5 updates

Since Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in early August that he would make changes to the organizational structure of the United States Postal Service, concerns have grown that slowdowns in mail delivery are leaving some Americans without their prescriptions.

The National Association of Letter Carriers said the postal service handles about 1.2 billion prescription shipments annually and delivers hundreds of millions of lab tests and medical supply shipments. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs fills about 80 percent of prescriptions by mail and has been forced to use alternative methods of shipping in some areas of the country due to mail slowdowns caused by the postmaster's changes, according to The Hill

The COVID-19 pandemic also likely has increased the number of people using mail-order prescriptions instead of going to pharmacies in person. 

Five updates on how changes to USPS are affecting prescription deliveries: 

  1. Mr. DeJoy said Aug. 18 that all changes being made to postal services would be suspended until after the Nov. 3 election, CNN reported. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Mr. DeJoy doesn't plan to roll back any of the changes already instituted, according to The Hill. The postmaster general's decision to delay the changes means that retail hours at post offices will not change and mail-processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain in place with no mail processing facilities being closed. But some mail-processing machines already have been removed. USPS officials told KSHB, a Kansas City NBC affiliate, that four mail-processing machines have been removed in Kansas City, Mo.

  2. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged the USPS Board of Directors Aug. 19 to disclose more information about the selection of Mr. DeJoy as the postmaster general, Politico reported. The government has said it used Russell Reynolds Association, a management consulting firm, to select Mr. DeJoy, but Russell Reynolds refused to release any information on the selection, citing a nondisclosure agreement. Mr. Schumer asked the board to release Rusell Reynolds from the nondisclosure agreement so Congress can obtain the full story behind Mr. DeJoy's selection.

  3. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is investigating the impact of postal services changes on the delivery of prescription drugs. The committee said abrupt and sweeping operational changes at the postal service have been "severely delaying" mail around the country. The committee plans to ask online pharmacies, pharmacy benefit managers and relevant trade organizations about the effect the delays are having on mail-order prescriptions.

  4. Thirty-one senators sent a letter to Mr. Dejoy saying they've heard from hundreds of veterans and staff from the Veterans Affairs Department that there have been weekslong mail delays causing veterans to miss doses of critical medications, ABC News reported. The VA disputed the claim that mail-order prescription arrived weeks late and encouraged people to request refills at least 10 days before they need them. The VA fills about 80 percent of veteran prescriptions by mail, adding up to about 120 million prescriptions per year for about 330,000 people.

  5. The American Pharmacists Association released a statement Aug. 18 that mandatory mail-order prescriptions are dangerous and that it's vital to let patients choose the way they obtain their medications. The association said it opposes healthcare benefit plans and pharmacy benefit managers that require patients to participate in mandatory mail order for medications.

    "Any patient that goes without one prescription is too many," the association wrote.

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