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New law affects pharmacy

TRICARE is the health care program serving uniformed servicemembers, retirees and their families worldwide.

TRICARE is the health care program serving uniformed servicemembers, retirees and their families worldwide.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A new law in effect requires most TRICARE beneficiaries to get brand name maintenance drugs from military pharmacies or the TRICARE home delivery system. Additionally beneficiaries who keep using retail pharmacies will have to pay full cost.

The law, which was instituted Oct. 1, 2015, will not affect active duty personnel, those living overseas, or those with another plan with prescription drug coverage.

"The changes only affect long term maintenance medications and will not affect short term therapies," said Capt. Michael Hsu, 30th Medical Support Squadron pharmacist. "These TRICARE changes will have little impact on active duty members."

Long term maintenance medications are defined as those medications you take for long periods of time, such as drugs that control blood pressure or cholesterol, according to

Short term medications, like antibiotics and generic drugs, are not subject to be influenced by the changes. Beneficiaries should also take note that base pharmacy wait times could increase.

"Wait times are going to increase as we expect an increase of up to 10 percent in prescription volume," said Hsu. "We can expect future manning to adjust to the increase in prescription volume but that will take time."

In order to help with this transition, beneficiaries are asked to assist by calling in their prescriptions in advance.

"Patients can reduce their wait times by being proactive and calling in to refill and activate prescriptions ahead of time, rather than grabbing a ticket in the lobby when they are already out of medication," said Hsu. "This allows us to plan ahead for medication out of stock as well as prescription clarification issues."

According to, beneficiaries affected by the change will get letters from Express Scripts, Inc., the TRICARE pharmacy contractor letting people know they are taking an affected drug.

Beneficiaries can also call Express Scripts at 1-877-363-1303 to see if they are affected and find out their options.

There are also other options available that will save time and money such as the TRICARE Pharmacy home delivery. states that you can get a 90-day supply of medication as opposed to a 30-day supply from a retail pharmacy, and it offers a $176 savings per year on co-payments for every brand name drug switched to Home Delivery.

Although the changes are less convenient for beneficiaries, the amount of government savings is substantial, and falls in line with responsible resource management.

"This new change was implemented due to increasing healthcare costs in an environment of increasing national debt," said Hsu. "Having your medications filled on base is almost 10 times cheaper for the government than getting your medications at a retail pharmacy. We will also be installing a medication bin in the pharmacy lobby in the near future where you can dump old unwanted medications for safe disposal. This will reduce prescription drug abuse and ensure that our environment is not contaminated with hazardous pharmaceutical residue."