Shopping for a better pharmacy? Have you checked your mailbox?

If you take a regular prescription, comparison shopping for the right pharmacy can be important to your health. One option you may be unaware of puts quality medication and lower costs as close to home as your mailbox.

Some health insurers and pharmacies offer mail order service, yet many people don’t know about the option, or are unsure of how it works. Mail order pharmacies deliver prescriptions through the mail, and often at a substantially lower cost. What’s more, getting your prescription through mail order may also improve your health, says Randell Correia, doctor of pharmacy and senior vice president of Pharmacy Services at OptumRx, a pharmacy benefits management company.

“Several studies have shown that people who receive their prescriptions through mail are often more likely to take their medications as directed by their doctor,” Correia says. “With mail order, you don’t have to worry about forgetting to get your prescription refilled or running out as many of the prescriptions come in a 90-day supply. And when you stick with your medications, you are able to maintain and improve your health.”

Correia answers some commonly asked questions about mail order prescriptions:

Why is mail order more affordable than going to a retail pharmacy?

Most mail order prescriptions are for generic drugs, which are as effective as brand name products but are offered at a substantial discount. Consumers can typically get a 90-day supply of prescription drugs through mail order for the same cost as a 60-day supply at retail – a 30 percent savings.

Is mail order a safe way to obtain my prescriptions?

Yes. Certified mail order facilities employ highly trained, licensed pharmacists who verify the medication and dosage of each prescription. Before the medication is shipped, a final quality and safety check is made. Correia says that at OptumRx, accuracy at its mail order pharmacies is 99.9 percent, surpassing retail pharmacies.

Will I be able to talk to a pharmacist if I have a question?

Many mail order pharmacies offer consultation services by telephone with licensed pharmacists. For those with complex conditions – such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis – you may also have access to free support programs that provide counseling and education with a registered clinician.

How do I use my mail order option?

Contact your insurance provider or the pharmacy number on your insurance card to learn if mail order is an option. If you are eligible for mail order, your doctor may send in the prescription or you may be asked to send it along with an authorization form.