European edition, Sunday, July 1, 2007

Prices at military pharmacies will change starting today, with a small increase for most medicines but without the current $8 dispensing charge per prescription.

The average price for all medicines will rise by 1 percent, according to the Europe Regional Medical Command, and the price for the top 100 generic drugs will rise by 10 percent on average.

But without the dispensing charge, the overall price on many cheaper drugs will come down. For example, a 30-day supply of the pain reliever naproxen dropped from $27.50 ($19.50 plus $8 dispensing fee) to $22.80.

The price changes are coming one year after prices rose by 150 percent, when military pharmacies started basing their prices on their median purchase prices instead of the lowest available price.

Drug prices affect Department of Defense civilian employees, contractors and their family members. The cost of medicine bought at military pharmacies by active-duty troops, retired active-duty troops and their families are covered by Tricare.

“I expect that the patients will definitely not be happy with the price increase considering they just had one in August,” said Kelley Locke, the medical command’s uniform business office manager. “Even though it is reasonable to expect prices will increase every year just because of the cost of living.

“But I think they will appreciate that (the medical command) is more proactive this year to get the message out and give them a tool to price the drugs prior to purchasing them.”

The medical command is scheduled to post a link on its Web site where customers can compare drug prices from different sellers.

Patients should shop around for prescription prices, including with their insurance providers, Locke said.

She said many insurers only pay for 30-day prescriptions, while many doctors prescribe drugs for 90 days, especially for maintenance drugs. Insurance companies that have their own online pharmacies are more likely to honor 90-day prescriptions, Locke said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield and Mail Handlers Benefit Plan are two insurers that have their own online pharmacies.

On the Web:

Prices for common drugs

Cost of selected common drugs at military pharmacies. New prices take effect on Sunday:

Naproxen (pain reliever), 250 mg, 30 pills: Old price, $27.50, new price $22.80

Zocor (for high cholesterol), 20 mg, 30 pills: Old price $119.60, new price, $125.10

Coumadin (blood thinner), 2.5 mg, 30 pills: Old price, $26.60, new $20.10

IbuprofinIbuprofen (pain relief), 800 mg, 30 pills: Old price, $18.50, new price $11.70

Ortho-Tri-Cyclen (birth control), 84 tablets: Old price, $107.96, new price, $99.96

Cephalexin (antibiotic) 500 mg, 30 capsules: Old price, $59.00; new price, $61.80

PrinizilPrinivil (hypertension) 20 mg, 30 pills: Old price, $34.40, new price, $27.00

Zoloft (depressionantidepressant), 100 mg, 30 pills: Old price, $84.50; new price, $76.80

SOURCE: Europe Regional Medical Command

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