What Happened to Pharmacy Benefits During COVID19? 5 Trends

Erin L. Albert
2 min readMay 27, 2020


While we were all sheltering in place, doing our best to slow the spread, some interesting things happened to our pharmacy benefits. Here’s a mashup of some of the data from around the internet supporting these trends in the realm where I work, pharmacy benefits:

  1. Nearly one in 5 Americans lost their pharmacy/healthcare benefits through layoffs — We’re hovering around 17% unemployment in Indiana. If that was the case for you personally, or your employees lost their healthcare benefits, check out this list from Apex Benefits on lower cost ways to get your prescription drugs if you have to pay cash.
  2. Mail order prescriptions increased — Makes sense, considering we were all hunkered down at home. And, many plans incentivize us to use mail order for 90 days’ supply of drugs with lower copays generally than we pay at retail. But…
  3. PBMs and insurers relaxed 90 days’ supply rules at retail too — A silver lining out of this pandemic was that we were allowed in many cases to request 90 days’ supply of drugs at retail too due to increased concerns for patients being able to access their medications. We also ended up stockpiling. The #1 category for prescription refill rates during the COVID-19 outbreak? Asthma.
  4. The race for a vaccine and other treatments for COVID-19 is on — The average new molecular entity or brand drug takes 10 years to get to market through clinical trials. But — the race is on to shrink that timeline for COVID-19, through vaccine development, and other therapies to treat the coronavirus. As a matter of fact, we at Apex Benefits have an upcoming podcast on this very topic with a regulatory expert on clinical trials. Stay tuned for more! (In the meantime, you can subscribe to our podcast, The Point, here.)
  5. Drug shortages increased — This is for many reasons, including manufacturing lockdowns, drug manufacturing in China, and the already fragile supply chain compromised. You can listen in to our chat with Rosemary Gibson, author of ChinaRx, on how and why we need to get our generic drug manufacturing back in the US via a drug supply chain makeover, stat. A running list of drug shortages is ongoing at ASHP, the health system pharmacy association.

As we return to work, we’re keeping an eye on these trends over at Apex Benefits for our employers too, in order to manage costs and care for our clients. Stay safe out there, and take care of each other. We made it this far!


Erin Albert is a pharmacist with Apex Benefits. Opinions above are her own, and not necessarily those of Apex.


Apex Benefits, ASHP, Rosemary Gibson, GoodRx, IQVIA



Erin L. Albert

Pharmacist, author, lawyer, intrapreneur. Opining is my own. www.erinalbert.com