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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — People receiving prescription drugs through the military mail-order program should check to see if they need to obtain a new prescription because of an upcoming contract change.

For most mail-order pharmacy users in Europe, the change in contractors should be smooth, said Troy Kitch, a TRICARE Europe spokesman. However, people whose medication is a controlled substance or whose medication is a mix of more than one ingredient will need to submit new prescriptions to the new contractor, he said.

For overseas patients, health-care providers licensed to practice in the United States must write new prescriptions, according to TRICARE officials.

All other prescriptions will transfer to the new contractor without delays, TRICARE officials said.

Current mail-order pharmacy users should receive a postcard announcing the change this month. A registration form will follow the card, and users should complete the form and send it back to avoid delays in receiving medication, Kitch said.

If people do not receive the card and form, they should update their address in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, Kitch said. Then, they can register online with the new contractor, Express Scripts Inc., at www.express-scripts.com.

In September, Express Scripts, based in Maryland Heights, Mo., won the $275 million, five-year contract to provide mail-order pharmacy services to TRICARE beneficiaries.

The new contractor will be able to purchase drugs at federal prices, which are at least 24 percent below average commercial wholesale prices, Army Col. William D. Davies, of the TRICARE Management Activity, said in the release.

However, the co-pay paid by patients will remain the same, meaning the savings will be reflected in the remaining cost of the drugs picked up by the government.

Prescriptions under the old National Mail Order Pharmacy will continue being mailed out until Feb. 28. On March 1 Express Scripts will begin providing medications for the TRICARE program.

With the new contract, TRICARE takes over managing the program from the Defense Logistics Agency’s Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia.

TRICARE hopes the contract changes benefit patients as well as save money, Kitch said. “We are confident this will lead to a better mail-order program,” he said.

“We are continually learning what services consumers value most and where we can improve services. This contract focuses on those improvements.”

More than 400,000 people use the military mail-order pharmacy program, TRICARE officials said. As of Monday, TRICARE Europe officials did not have figures available on how many of those people were in Europe.

Only people with chronic conditions like high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes who are receiving maintenance prescriptions use the mail-order program, Kitch said.

TRICARE encourages people to use the program because patients receive a 90-day supply of their medication compared with a 30-day supply if they fill prescriptions at a military or commercial retail pharmacy.

In Europe, people usually receive medications 10 to 13 days after ordering them through the mail-order system, Kitch said.

People can make sure they do not run out of medication by having their provider write the prescription for a 90-day supply with up to three refills. Refills can be requested after 75 percent of the original medication has been used, TRICARE officials said.

Timeline of changes

Jan. 15: New contractor Web site opens at www.express-scripts.com. Preregistering saves time when placing first-time orders with Express Scripts Inc.

Feb. 1: Tricare Mail Order Pharmacy program call center opens. Call (+1) 866-363-8667 in the States for assistance. Through Feb. 28, continue ordering refills and new prescriptions from the current contractor.

March 1: Start using Express Scripts for mail order pharmacy prescriptions.

Tricare can also be accessed online at www.tricare.osd.mil for answers to questions about the mail-order program.

Local Tricare service centers also have information about the program. Visit www.europe.tricare.osd.mil to find the location of the nearest service center.

— Sean Cobb

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