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More consumers are buying medicines by mail

Of Americans who buy prescription drugs, the proportion who purchase them from mail order pharmacies rose from just under 9 percent in 2000 to just over 13 percent in 2005. During the same time frame, the proportion of Americans who bought their prescription medicines from other sources declined: drug stores (from 65 percent to 61 percent); pharmacies in clinics, HMOs, or hospitals (from 15 percent to 13 percent); and pharmacies inside supermarkets and super stores like Target and Wal-Mart stores (from 32 percent to 28 percent). About 37 percent of those who purchased drugs from mail order pharmacies in 2005 were age 65 and older, nearly 88 percent were white, almost 87 percent had private health insurance, and about 75 percent had at least one chronic illness.

These data are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid.

For more information, go to Comparing Population Characteristics of Persons Purchasing Prescribed Drugs from Mail Order Pharmacies with Persons Purchasing Prescribed Drugs from Others Outlets, 2005 at http://meps.ahrq.gov/.

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