Pharmacy brown bagging vs. white bagging

2022 Q4 Rx Newsletter

December 3, 2022

What is “Bagging”

“Bagging” is a method of delivery, transportation, and administration typically reserved for specialty medications. Each year, more and more health plans incorporate PBM’s with their own specialty pharmacies to push towards the method of white bagging versus the traditional brown bagging.

White bagging for specialty medications, especially transfusions, has become an increasing trend amongst pharmacy plan designs since brown bagging adds additional responsibility to the member.

Difference between Brown and White Bagging

The key factor to differentiate between brown bagging and white bagging is by how the medication is provided to the specialty facility administering the medication to the patient.

Brown Bagging:

  • Patient is responsible to obtain the prescribed medication through an eligible pharmacy and take the medication to the facility in which the prescriber will administer the medication to the member.

White Bagging:

  • The approved specialty pharmacy will dispense and ship the specialty medication to the facility that will be administering the medication to the patient.

The brown bagging method has the member actively involved whereas the second option, white bagging, does not have the patient handle the medication at all.

Pro’s and Con’s of each bag for Specialty Prescriptions

Brown Bagging:


  • No delay in administering medication as member picks up and brings medication to facility.


  • Potential incorrect storage or treatment of medication by patient prior to bringing medication to the specialty facility.

White Bagging:


  • Patients do not have to be concerned with handling medications because the medications are shipped directly to administering facility.


  • Potential delay in treatment, as medication needs to be shipped from an eligible specialty pharmacy to the specialty facility.
  • Patient must also make sure specialty facility has a contractual agreement with the specialty pharmacy.1

Overall, it is important to reach out to the PBM affiliated with the health plan to determine how they incorporate white bagging and brown bagging, and which would be most beneficial for the health plan and patients.

If you have questions about how your specialty pharmacy is being handled or the delivery of specialty medications under your plans, contact our pharmacy practice.




  1. “What color bag? Three emerging practices pharmacists should know,” Pharmacy Today, accessed October 20, 2022,