NACDS, NCPA urge preservation of pharmacy access, choice for Tricare beneficiaries

WASHINGTON — There are better ways to reduce expenses for Tricare beneficiaries than to restrict access to community pharmacy. What's more, Congress should adopt alternative cost-saving strategies, including utilizing local pharmacists.

That was a key message in an op-ed co-authored by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association and published June 13 in The Hill's Congress Blog.

Tricare, the Department of Defense healthcare plan for military families and veterans, strongly encourages the use of mail order by allowing beneficiaries to obtain three times more medication from mail order as from retail for the same copayment.

Furthermore, the DoD has made it clear that come October, it will further encourage mail order by increasing copayments for retail pharmacy.

"Community pharmacy is part of the solution in containing costs and improving health. In fact, pharmacies have worked for years to save money in Tricare and other health programs, by promoting affordable alternatives, such as the appropriate use of generic drugs. Generic medications, on average, cost one-sixth as much as brand name drugs," NACDS and NCPA stated in the op-ed.

"One approach supported by NACDS and NCPA is to encourage Tricare beneficiaries to use generic medications from retail pharmacies. Another cost-saving approach is to better promote the prevention services offered by community pharmacies for people with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes. Pharmacists can help patients take their medications in the most safe and effective ways — also known as medication adherence — which is an important benefit of having the opportunity to choose where to fill prescription medication," NACDS and NCPA stated.

NACDS and NCPA argued that the bill should offer Tricare beneficiaries "a level playing field in how they choose to receive their prescription medications," and recommends that Congress adopt alternative cost-saving strategies, such as leveraging the services and expertise of local pharmacists.