Military Pharmacies May Change List of Free Over-the-Counter Drugs Offered

Medications available for free through the 21st Medical Squadron pharmacy’s Over-the-Counter Medication Program are on display in the 21st MDS clinic at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, on Dec. 5, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Tracy)
Medications available for free through the 21st Medical Squadron pharmacy’s Over-the-Counter Medication Program are on display in the 21st MDS clinic at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, on Dec. 5, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Tracy)

On-base military pharmacies worldwide may soon change or reduce their offerings of free over-the-counter (OTC) medications as Tricare administrators standardize the list of what's available.

Currently, military retirees and other beneficiaries can receive certain medications for free and without a prescription through a long-standing OTC medication program. How the program is administered and how many medications each user can get per month varies by location. Typically, users must fill out a request form, and medications are often capped at four or five per beneficiary.

Which medications are offered can also differ widely by pharmacy or service branch. For example, a list of medications available at Fort Gordon, Georgia includes anti-diarrheal drug loperamide and condoms, while a list from the Navy's health clinic in Annapolis, Maryland does not include either option, but does offer Chloraseptic throat drops.

Now, as the military medical system undergoes a shift in administration of the military hospitals from the services to the Defense Health Agency (DHA), many of the systems' processes and offerings are being standardized, including the OTC program.

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The Pentagon does not plan to order facilities to discontinue the program outright, said Kevin Dwyer, a DHA spokesman. Instead, officials on the agency's Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee are working to create a standardized list of what's offered and will leave the decision of which medications, if any, to stock from that refitted catalog to pharmacy administrators.

"The Defense Health Agency has not issued any directives to halt such programs, and it is up to the individual facility to establish or continue an OTC medication program," he said.

Dwyer said the committee is not aiming to reduce the number of drugs available, but would not say for sure that the final list won’t be shorter.

The re-evaluation began this year, he said. Information on when the evaluation will be completed was not immediately available.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

 

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