Mail-order pharmacies garnered a larger-than-ever share of the prescription drug business due to the pandemic. Though data varies, some insiders say the shift away from retail to mail order is durable, and experts say prescription delivery could become a dominant channel, especially for maintenance medications.

The move toward delivered prescriptions also builds on a trend that emerged from payer-PBM rollups in recent years, which has led the merged firms to try to tempt members into mail-order fills. The combined firms, such as Cigna Corp./Express Scripts, have a strong incentive to bypass retail pharmacies. Doing so allows the firms to retain more rebate revenue and avoid coupons at the point of sale. Meanwhile, prescription delivery originating at a retail pharmacy has drawn some of the same gig economy players that have competed for restaurant takeout and grocery delivery, such as Uber Inc.

The trend is meaningful, says Brian Anderson, a principal at Milliman Inc.

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