Arlington, Va. – In a letter to the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission today, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) emphasized the substantial health-boosting and cost-reducing benefits that the pharmacist-patient relationship can produce for military families and veterans, and for the Department of Defense (DoD).

The letter represents the latest action in NACDS’ ongoing effort to preserve and extend the advantages that local retail pharmacies present for improving medication adherence, or taking medications as prescribed, as well as for improving immunization rates and affordability.

“As policies to control spending in the Department of Defense (DoD) TRICARE program are examined, we would like to share with you our concerns about the TRICARE Pharmacy benefit, and proposals that would seriously affect access to care by driving TRICARE beneficiaries out of local retail pharmacies. These proposals include increasing TRICARE copayments for retail prescriptions and requiring the use of the national mail order program,” NACDS wrote.

“Such proposals place great financial burdens on TRICARE beneficiaries, and also severely limit their ability to receive medications and services from their neighborhood pharmacies. This is especially troublesome for retirees and the families of active duty military, who rely most heavily on the convenience and reliability of their local pharmacies.”

Established by the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, the Commission is developing recommendations to ensure the long-term viability of the all-volunteer armed forces; to foster recruitment, retention and careers in the armed forces; and to modernize and achieve fiscal sustainability for the armed forces’ compensation and retirement systems. The Commission is to submit its report by February 1, 2015.

NACDS cited extensive evidence that increased copayments have the result of decreasing medication adherence, and thus contributing to poorer health outcomes.

“Last summer Avalere conducted a study of published research on medication adherence which concluded that the evidence largely shows that patients who are adherent to their medications have more favorable health outcomes such as reduced mortality and use fewer healthcare services (especially hospital readmissions and ER visits),” NACDS wrote.

NACDS’ letter referenced six studies that have demonstrated the relationship between better medication adherence and better cost-effectiveness flowing from improved health. It also noted that the benefits of face-to-face engagement between patients and pharmacists also lead to greater awareness of cost-savings from generic drugs and from over-the-counter remedies.

In addition, NACDS emphasized the cost savings that have resulted from pharmacist-provided immunizations in the TRICARE program, and the benefits of maintaining continuity of care in the local retail pharmacy setting.

NACDS wrote, “TRICARE beneficiaries rely heavily on their local retail pharmacies for a wide range of cost-saving services, including acute care and preventative services such as immunizations. Considering the convenience and value that local retail pharmacies provide, we question the wisdom of policies that seek to drive TRICARE beneficiaries away from the benefit of their local, trusted pharmacists and unnecessarily complicate the delivery of care. Beneficiaries that know and trust their local retail pharmacists for such services as immunizations are being forced to obtain medications from mail order facilities in remote locations with no opportunity for in-person consultation. There is no substitute for the pharmacist-patient face-to-face relationship. Community pharmacy services help to improve patient health and lower overall health care costs. Maintaining patient choice of how to obtain prescription medications is essential.”

Earlier this month, NACDS noted that the final FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act included improvements from prior versions of the legislation, but also included problematic provisions that threaten pharmacy choice and its positive results for TRICARE patients and for DoD.