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NEWS | June 18, 2013

The cost of medicine

By 633rd Medical Group 633rd Medical Operations Squadron

Service members at Langley Air Force Base, Va., probably know they can save money by filling prescriptions at a local military treatment facility, but few may realize it can save the government a significant amount of money as well.

According to, an estimated 3.8 billion prescriptions were filled in the United States in 2011, costing Americans more than $271 billion. The total nears $300 billion when over-the-counter drug remedies are included.

"Costs to the Department of Defense to fill these prescriptions vary according to point of service, but the average cost of filling a 30-day prescription is $19.90 at a Military Treatment Facility, $32.89 with mail-order service and $72.11 at a retail pharmacy," said Capt. Kellie Zentz, 633rd Medical Operations Squadron pharmacist. "When Service members fill prescriptions off base, more than $180 million of potential military revenue is lost to retail pharmacies in the Tidewater, Va., area."

Patients using military pharmacies not only save the government money, but also add to their personal savings.

"When filling at a military pharmacy, patients receive 90-day prescriptions with no co-pay, and when using a mail-order pharmacy, co-pays for the same prescription range from $0 to $43," said Zentz "When TRICARE is used on the same prescriptions at retail pharmacies, co-pays range from $15 to $132. With the national average of 12 prescriptions per person, this could save a patient up to $1,584 every 90 days."

Currently, the 633rd Medical Group satellite pharmacy accepts hard-copy prescriptions from outside physicians and is capable of filling refills on any prescription originally filled on base.
The satellite pharmacy is located adjacent to the commissary and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Paper prescriptions are dropped off at a kiosk located just inside the commissary, while prescription pick up for filled paper prescriptions and refills is situated next door to the commissary.

The pharmacy offers the most medication options in the Tidewater area, allowing TRICARE patients in the surrounding area to fill maintenance and outpatient medications at no cost. The formulary at Langley not only includes prescription medications, but also includes a limited number of over-the-counter medications available with a prescription.

Medications available on the 633rd MDG formulary can be found by visiting, or by calling the outpatient pharmacy at (757) 764-7799.

Another cost-effective option for Service members is the TRICARE Home Delivery service, said Zentz. The service is available when a pharmacy does not have a medication, or when members do not have access to a military pharmacy.

The delivery system is cost-effective for patients when filling generic medications, which are filled and delivered at no cost. Also, patients may receive 90-day supplies of medications, while retail-pharmacy delivery systems often only offer the option of 30-day supplies.

To enroll in TRICARE Home Delivery patients must simply visit the website at

To see the DoD Formulary and compare the cost of medications, use the formulary search tool at the DoD Pharmacoeconomic Center website at

Medical costs are continuously on the rise. With increased costs, TRICARE members see a growing value in using military benefits. To maximize those benefits, speak with civilian physicians about receiving paper prescriptions to bring to a military pharmacy, or visit the TRICARE website for assistance with enrollment in the home delivery system.