CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — Pharmacies at the U.S. Naval Hospital here and the 18th Medical Group on Kadena Air Base will no longer dispense over-the-counter medications to persons not covered by Tricare, starting Oct. 15.

The new policy, mandated for military treatment facilities by the Tricare Management Activity, will affect “pay patients” covered under private non-military insurance plans, such as base schools personnel, contractors and other federal employees, said Brian Davis, spokesman for the naval hospital.

He said the new policy has already been established at most military hospitals in the States, but overseas military hospitals have been left to make their own arrangements.

Some hospitals in the Pacific have made the change; others haven’t.

In its January business newsletter, Tricare stated that, “Over-the-counter drugs (OTCs) will no longer be billed. To avoid unfair competition with the civilian sector, pay patients should not receive OTCs.”

Tricare set the start date for the change for June, but Davis said the Okinawa pharmacies delayed putting the new policy into effect to give the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Defense Commissary Agency on Okinawa time to ensure over-the-counter medications would be available in their stores.

“However, some items that are normally sold over-the-counter at civilian pharmacies in the U.S. — but not by military exchanges or commissaries, such as diabetic supplies — will still be available by prescription at military treatment facilities on Okinawa,” Davis said.

In mainland Japan, Master Sgt. Julie Briggs, a 374th Airlift Wing spokeswoman, said the Yokota Medical Treatment Facility changed its over-the-counter medication policy in early July.

However, the change has not been implemented at some other military hospitals in Japan. Cmdr. Tracy Kolosik, in charge of the Branch Health Clinic at Sasebo Naval Base, said he has received no word from Yokosuka Naval Hospital concerning any change to the practice of dispensing over-the-counter medications.

U.S. military officials in South Korea said Thursday that they haven’t changed their policy.

“At this point we don’t restrict any over-the-counter medications,” said USFK spokesman Col. Franklin Childress. “Anyone who is treated at the 121st hospital — or any of the clinics on the peninsula — has full access to our pharmaceutical formulary.”

As for the change on Okinawa, Davis said pay patients would see a savings in the cost of medications when they buy them at the stores.

“We had to charge more because we did not buy those medications in bulk — at least not as much as the exchanges and commissaries,” Davis said. “And, we had to charge a dispensing fee.”

“Pay patients who are not sure if their current prescribed medicines are affected by the new over-the-counter policy can ask their primary care provider, the collections office, or the pharmacy for more information,” Davis said.

Stars and Stripes reporters T.D. Flack, Travis Tritten and Bryce Dubee contributed to this report.

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