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Defense Department raises prices of Viagra, Cialis for military men

WASHINGTON_ Military retirees will soon have to pay more for two popular erectile-dysfunction drugs, the Pentagon has decided.

Beginning Oct. 12, men who have prescriptions filled outside of a military pharmacy will have to pay $22 for a 30- to 90-day supply of Viagra and Cialis, according to a July 18 ruling by the Defense Department's Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee. Retirees previously paid $9 for the drugs.

Co-pays for Levitra, another popular erectile-dysfunction drug, will remain at $9 for a prescription.

Active-duty males will still pay nothing if the prescription is deemed a "medical necessity," according to Navy Capt. Patricia L. Buss, acting chief medical officer for TRICARE management activity. TRICARE is the military's health-care system, which treats 1.4 million uniformed service members and 7.7 million dependents and retirees.

The pharmacy committee found that none of the three drugs, which fall into a class known as PDE-5 inhibitors, "have a significant, clinically meaningful therapeutic advantage" over the others. But the committee found that Levitra was more cost-effective than the other two, Buss said. The Pentagon declined to elaborate on why Levitra was considered more cost-effective, and its manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKlline, declined to comment.

Cialis is manufactured by a joint venture between Eli Lilly and Co., based in Indianapolis, and drug manufacturer ICOS, based in Bothell, Wash. Viagra is manufactured by Pfizer Inc. of New York.

The July 18 ruling is part of an effort to put the brakes on rising drug costs for the military. In fiscal year 2004, the Defense Department spent $23 million on erectile-dysfunction drugs.

Last year, roughly 128,000 active-duty and retired military men received prescriptions for the drugs.

The Defense Department has been covering prescriptions for erectile-dysfunction drugs since 1998.


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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