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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Slowdowns in mail delivery could have serious consequences for the millions of Americans who get prescription drugs — in some cases, lifesaving treatments — through the mail.

Why it matters: Treatments for cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other complex diseases increasingly are sent in the mail. And the coronavirus pandemic has spurred more people to get their routine prescriptions mailed to their homes, as a safer alternative to visiting a pharmacy.

Driving the news: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said Tuesday that he would suspend the controversial operational changes that Democrats had widely criticized as a threat to timely mail-in voting this November.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats would still continue their oversight of the postal service — which has included questions for the pharmacy industry about possible delays, as well as concerns about delays for VA patients.

By the numbers: Americans received 313 million adjusted prescriptions through the mail in 2019, often for common, generic medications that treat things like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

  • Even though that's only 5% of all prescriptions, mail orders represent roughly a quarter of all drug spending, according to health data firm IQVIA, thanks to the growing mail-order business for expensive pills that treat complex diseases.

Consequently, the U.S. Postal Service has become a critical backbone of the country's medication infrastructure.

Where it stands: Even before Tuesday's announcement, the disruption to prescription deliveries seems to have been minimal.

  • In the latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, just 5% of respondents said they had been expecting a drug delivery in the past week but either hadn't gotten it or had gotten it late. (14% were expecting a delivery and got it in time.)
  • But anecdotally, for the people who are experiencing delays, the worries are real.

The bottom line: "My patients who rely on their insulin, or their inhalers, or any other type of medication can't wait weeks to see whether or not their prescription will be delivered," Jacqueline Fincher, the president of the American College of Physicians, said in a statement.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

More than 100 million Americans voted early in 2020

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More than 100 million Americans voted early in the 2020 election across the U.S., according to state data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic and its resultant social-distancing measures prompted a massive uptick in both mail-in ballots and early voting nationwide, setting up an unprecedented and potentially tumultuous count in the hours and days after the polls close on Nov. 3.

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.