NACDS hails passage by House members of equal-access provisions of military bill

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drugs Stores was quick to praise the U.S. House of Representatives for its approval today of a defense spending bill that preserves the right of military members and their families to obtain prescription medicines from community pharmacies without penalty.

The House today approved the language of the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, hammered out last week by House and Senate negotiators. Among the key elements of the bill are two provisions that affect the ability of retail pharmacies to participate in the TRICARE military health program.

To wit, the defense bill would extend the current freeze on increases to retail pharmacy co-payments, so that patients covered by TRICARE won’t be penalized for opting to have their prescriptions filled at a local pharmacy in their community, rather than through a mail-order facility. The bill also contains language that affirms the right of the Department of Defense to negotiate with drug manufacturers for federal pricing discounts for TRICARE prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies, “in the same manner as they do today for TRICARE prescriptions filled at military bases or by mail order,” NACDS noted.

Both provisions would help maintain a level playing field between retail and mail-order pharmacies that serve military families, according to the pharmacy group. In addition, noted NACDS, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Defense Department will save $1.8 billion over the next five years by negotiating directly with drug makers for pricing discounts on drugs sold by retail pharmacies.

To become law, however, the Defense Authorization Act conference report must now pass the Senate and be signed by President Bush.

NACDS president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson hailed today’s action in the House. “Keeping equal access to community pharmacy for our military men and women is a priority for NACDS,” Anderson said. “We applaud the House for its action to preserve access to retail pharmacies in the TRICARE program. This legislation will help maintain choice for soldiers, military retirees and their families.”

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