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More than 128,000 military beneficiaries taking Viagra or Cialis for erectile dysfunction likely will have to switch this fall to Levitra or face higher co-payments on their prescriptions.

The Defense Department’s Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee will recommend in mid-July that Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., the Pentagon’s top health official, narrow the field of impotency drugs dispensed for free at base pharmacies or for a $9 co-payment through the military’s retail pharmacy network or mail-order program, according to a defense official.

After a detailed review, the P&T committee concluded that none of popular impotency drugs is more clinically effective, but Levitra is more cost-effective to stock. Only 10 percent of military patients with erectile dysfunction use Levitra. Seventy-seven percent use Viagra and 13 percent Cialis.

To save taxpayers $13 million a year, the committee proposes that Viagra and Cialis be moved to “nonformulary” status. If Winkenwerder agrees, these drugs no longer will be available on base unless a doctor claims medical necessity, and that a military Treatment Facility have written the prescription, the defense official said. Patients still could get Viagra or Cialis through the Tricare retail network or by mail order, but for a higher $22 co-payment.

On Monday, four of eight members of a beneficiary advisory panel that reviews P&T recommendations advised Winkenwerder to accept this one. Assuming he will, the panel also advised that the change take effect in 120 days, rather than 90, given the number of patients expected to switch, the official said.

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