TRICARE Advises Patients About German Ban on Mailed Medicine
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
FALLS CHURCH, Va., Oct. 4, 2012 A German law that prohibits importing medications into the country is changing the way the TRICARE mail-order pharmacy does business, said a TRICARE Management Activity official today.
Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) W. Bryan Gamble, deputy director of the activity within the office of the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said the change is expected to take effect Jan. 1, 2013. On that date, the U.S. Postal Service must stop delivery to FPO and APO addresses of imported pharmaceuticals and other prohibited items into Germany and the European Union. An Oct. 1 letter from TRICARE to its mail-order beneficiaries gives them early notice of the change.
The German government passed the importation ruling in 2006, but it is just now enforcing the legal restrictions that are expected to affect more than 2,000 prescriptions. Of those affected, 33patients with 137 prescriptions are considered remote, or more than an hour away, from a military treatment facility, according to a TRICARE fact sheet.
"The prohibition rule put a 'blockage' [into] the future of our TRICARE mail-order pharmacy," Gamble said. "As I understand it, all pharmaceuticals have to come from an EU location into Germany."
The ruling affects service members and families, in addition to Defense Department civilians who have medications sent by mail through their private insurance, officials said.
"This impacts all Americans and foreign nationals in Germany who get mail-order [medications] from whatever sources," Gamble said.
While Gamble does not foresee complications with TRICARE beneficiaries obtaining their medications, getting immediate word out to them is now all the more important, he said.
"First and foremost, we must inform the TRICARE beneficiaries of what's happening, and what they might need to do to ensure they have a constant supply of their medications," while TRICARE works to find a way to adapt to German restrictions, he said.
In his letter to beneficiaries, Gamble also offered solutions to obtaining medication until another system can be established: Use German doctors and local-host country pharmacies, or receive treatment and medication from U.S. military treatment facilities, which are aware of the issue and anticipate TRICARE patients joining their system, he added.
TRICARE Overseas Program Prime and Prime Remote beneficiaries are reimbursed for 100 percent of their out-of-pocket costs when they have an authorization and use host-nation pharmacies. Deductibles and cost-shares also apply for other beneficiaries who use the host pharmacies, which are treated the same as those that are non-network, where a patient pays for a prescription, and files a claim with TRICARE for a partial reimbursement, officials said.
"Particularly in Germany, this is a new way of doing business, and how we're going to look at making sure beneficiaries have the convenience of a TRICARE mail order pharmacy,” Gamble emphasized. “For now, we want to allow them enough time to prepare to meet their health care and medication needs."
"At TRICARE, we take the quality, safety and the satisfaction of our beneficiaries, patients and families very seriously," he said, "So we'll continue to look at opportunities and ways we can continue to serve them ... into the future."