Drone Delivery: Flying Over the Barriers to Care

In January, Magellan Rx Management, the full-service pharmacy benefits management division of Magellan Health, announced its collaboration with instant logistics company Zipline to deliver prescription medications, including specialty medications that treat chronic, complex conditions, directly to patients’ homes via autonomous aircraft. The move will make Magellan Rx the first national PBM to deliver medications through drones, providing a consumer-centric approach to support patients on their healthcare journey.

Mostafa Kamal, CEO of Magellan Rx Management, sat down with Pharma Commerce to discuss how this innovative delivery method aims to reduce barriers to care.

Pharma Commerce: What is Magellan Rx Management's vision for the delivery of prescription medicine via automated on-demand delivery? Can you explain the collaboration between Magellan Rx Management and Zipline?

We are very excited about the collaboration with Zipline and we have been working on this for quite some time. Both companies believe in challenging the status quo in our respective industries. Keller Rinaudo (co-founder and CEO of Zipline) and I met a few years ago and immediately recognized the opportunity we had to collaborate and bring new possibilities to the Magellan Rx patient population.

More specifically, this pilot enables us to lead the way in shaping the future of the pharmacy industry through automated, on-demand access, meeting patients where they are on their healthcare journey. The collaboration enables us to deliver a better experience that meets patients where they are, on their schedule, and promotes better adherence to therapy and overall well-being by eliminating logistical challenges to care.

Who will be eligible to participate and how does an eligible patient go about completing an order?

Magellan Rx Management will deliver prescription medication directly to patient homes, including high-cost, specialty medications that treat chronic, complex conditions. Patients fulfilling prescriptions or receiving pharmacy benefit services through Magellan Rx may be eligible. Full eligibility will depend on a number of factors, including geography and lot size. An eligible patient would communicate directly with their pharmacist and customer care representative to opt-in for this service.

How will the delivery of specialty medication by drone help break down barriers to care and solve healthcare access needs?

Drone delivery allows us to move beyond just filling a prescription, to empowering patients with more control over their schedules and removing many logistical barriers to care. As a result, patients will experience less burden around when, where and how care is delivered. They will have more flexibility over their schedule, no longer wasting time waiting for their Rx delivery, or be worried their medication may be compromised or spoiled.

How will this consumer-centric delivery option reimagine the patient experience?

Today, specialty medications are delivered through the traditional carriers, which typically have a full-day delivery window. Often these patients who are waiting on their medications have to organize their day around a very large delivery window while also contending with the fear and worry that is sometimes associated with a major diagnosis. The last thing you want is to cause them unnecessary anxiety about taking a day off of work or missing other important events in order to wait at home all day for their drug to arrive and in some cases be faced with delays or cancellations. Drone delivery allows patients to schedule the delivery of their medications in a 15­–30 minute window that fits into their schedule.

As you think about pushing the boundaries and shaping the future of pharmacy, on-demand options eliminate challenges that exist with the current care delivery process. This method of delivery not only creates convenience but provides certainty around medication delivery, ultimately giving patients more control and helping to eliminate barriers to medication adherence.

How will this collaboration shift the industry standard of care and medication delivery?

Around 2% of the population uses specialty drugs in the United States.However, specialty medications are responsible for 50% of the pharmacy costs in the country. These drugs are often used to treat the most complex and chronic conditions where medication non-adherence can result in costly avoidable medical interventions. We believe that prioritizing patients who use specialty drugs will have the greatest benefit by removing barriers to care, improving adherence, improving outcomes and reducing waste in the entire healthcare system.

What are the future plans for the collaboration between Magellan Rx Management and Zipline after the pilot program launches?

We look forward to exploring all of the possibilities and ways in which we can collaborate with Zipline in the future. That said, our first priority is the successful launch of this pilot. During the first phase of the launch, we are going to be very focused on tracking medication adherence, patient engagement and the patient experience. We will be communicating closely with the patients we serve, collecting feedback, iterating on the service and ultimately aim to prove our hypotheses along the way.

Click here for more information on the project.