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New TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy to Open March 1, 2003

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2002 – More than 400,000 military pharmacy mail order customers will be switched March 1, 2003, to a new TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy program, according to Army Col. William D. Davies of the TRICARE Management Activity, Falls Church, Va.

Services will continue under the National Mail Order Pharmacy contract until Feb. 28, 2003, he noted. The next day, March 1, Express Scripts Inc. will provide services under the new TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy program, Davies said.

Express Scripts Inc. of Maryland Heights, Mo., won the $275 million, five-year contract in September to provide mail order pharmacy services for TRICARE beneficiaries.

The director of DoD pharmacy programs, Davies said beneficiaries who have refills remaining on prescriptions on March 1 will be transferred to Express Scripts so they can continue ordering medications on time, with a few exceptions.

"We can't transfer narcotics or other controlled substance prescriptions. Nor can we transfer compounded prescriptions -- those that are physically prepared by the pharmacy," said Davies, a registered pharmacist with more than 23 years of active duty service.

Medication that requires refrigeration is shipped through priority mail or a courier service, such as FedEx, the pharmacist said. "That's one reason we don't send medications that require refrigeration to APO and FPO addresses overseas," he noted.

TRICARE beneficiaries living and working overseas can use the mail order pharmacy if they have an APO, FPO or a U.S. embassy address. But the prescription must be written by a provider licensed to practice in the United States.

In early January, current users should receive a post card announcing the new services. That will be followed by a mailing which will include a registration form, a description of benefits and a brochure covering the TRICARE program.

Those eligible to use the current mail order program or the retail benefit are eligible to use the new TRICARE mail order program. New customers have to register for the program. Information will be provided through the TRICARE service centers, military treatment facilities pharmacy as well as their marketing points of contact.

The usual delivery time for medication is five to seven days. The easiest way for patients to ensure they don't run out of their medication is to have the provider write for up to a 90-day supply with up to three refills. The beneficiary can request a refill once 75 percent of the medication has been used.

"So about Day 70 into their medication, they can request a refill," Davies said. "That provides them a cushion."

He said all medication is screened for potential drug interactions or therapeutic overlaps that could produce an adverse drug reaction. He said patients' complete beneficiary profiles are entered into the Pharmacy Data Transition Service, which enhances patient safety by keeping their medication records current, on file and readily available..

The new contract saves taxpayers' dollars because it calls for purchasing drug products at federal prices. Best federal prices are at least 24 percent below average commercial wholesale prices Davies estimated.

The TRICARE Management Activity will manage the new contract. The current, national contract has been managed by the Defense Logistics Agency's Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia.

Patients can fill prescriptions three ways: by direct care at military treatment facilities, or the retail pharmacy network or the mail order program, Davies noted. The direct care system serves the bulk of the beneficiary population, he said. About 2.5 million beneficiaries use the retail pharmacy network because they don't have access to a military facility.

Most of the 400,000 beneficiaries who use the mail order program do so for chronic medication or maintenance medication needs, Davies said.

"We want beneficiaries who have long-term medication needs to consider using the mail order program. It provides up to a 90-day supply of most medications for a single co-pay, whereas they only receive a 30-day supply for a single co- pay in the retail network pharmacy system," he said.

Under the TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy system, the co-pay for up to a 90-day supply for most medications is $9 for branded products or $3 for generics. Exceptions include controlled substances, and active duty members pay no co- pays.

For more information, including a complete section on the co-pay structure, visit the TRICARE Web site at www.tricare.osd.mil. Reservists can check the site for details of their benefits under the program.

Beneficiaries can also use the Express Scripts Inc. Web site by clicking on the DoD seal at www.express-scripts.com after the site debuts Jan. 15, 2003.

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