Report: Medicare Users Go Online, Read DM

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The Internet and direct mail are useful media for reaching Medicare users, according to research released this week by Scarborough Research, a New York-based market research firm.

Data are from Scarborough USA+, a national study of consumer shopping patterns, media habits and lifestyles. Scarborough Research is a joint venture of Arbitron Inc. and VNU Media Measurement & Information.

More than 1 million adults 65 or older who indicated in the study that they have Medicare insurance shopped for medicine or prescriptions on the Internet in the past year. More than 2.3 million went online for medical information, and more women Medicare participants go online -- though men are more likely to buy medications via the Internet.

Scarborough also found that 16 percent of Medicare participants have made a purchase of any kind as a result of direct mail advertising in the past year, and direct mail is particularly effective for reaching Medicare participants using weight-loss and smoking-cessation medicines.

Thirty-five percent of Medicare recipients who bought weight-loss medication in the past year also made a purchase as a result of direct mail; 18 percent of smoking-cessation drug purchasers did the same.

"Medicare participants are not a homogeneous consumer group, and they respond to a variety of marketing tactics," said Alisa Joseph, vice president, advertiser marketing services, Scarborough Research. "A detailed knowledge of their pharmaceutical purchasing habits, lifestyles and shopping patterns will not only help Part D plans cater to their needs, but will also help create outreach and educational programs that focus on improving the health of this population."

The analysis also found that Wal-Mart is the top retailer for Medicare participants' pharmaceutical purchases. Fifteen percent cited this store as a place where they bought prescription drugs in the past month. Walgreens (12 percent), CVS (11 percent), Eckerd Drug (7 percent) and Rite-Aid (6 percent) round out the leading stores for prescription drug purchases among Medicare participants.

Nationally, 52 percent of Medicare participants purchased medicine for high blood pressure in the past year, making it the leading ailment for medication purchases by Medicare participants. This consumer group is almost 2 1/2 times as likely as the average adult to have bought for this ailment in the past 12 months.

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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