DOD and VA Pharmacy

Progress and Remaining Challenges in Jointly Buying and Mailing Out Drugs Gao ID: GAO-01-588 May 25, 2001

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) have made important progress, particularly during the past year, in their efforts to jointly procure drugs to help control spiraling prescription drug costs. Although their collaborative efforts have been impressive, the two agencies have largely targeted generic drugs, which comprise less than 10 percent of their combined expenditures. More dramatic cost reductions could be achieved through procurements of high-cost brand-name drugs, although doing so can be more complex and time consuming to garner the necessary clinical support and provider acceptance on therapeutic interchangeability. Nonetheless, DOD's greatly expanded retiree drug benefit and the formularies being developed by both agencies should provide added joint procurement opportunities for such drugs. Also, VA and DOD have shown that flexible approaches to developing joint solicitations can take into account differences in their health systems while still maximizing drug discounts. In GAO's view, their joint activities could be further enhanced by periodically conferring with private managed care pharmacy experts and reporting to Congress on their joint procurement activities. Top management at DOD and VA need to stay focused on their joint procurement and distribution activities as leadership changes continue at the two agencies. VA and DOD have also made progress in their efforts to conduct a consolidated mail outpatient pharmacy pilot. The sooner the pilot proves feasible, the sooner DOD can begin to realize the financial and quality of care benefits associated with the transfer of its refill workload.


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