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DoD spends $84M a year on Viagra, similar meds

February 13, 2015 (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A report published online last week by the Washington Free Beacon and picked up by Fox News and the U.K.'s Daily Mail noted that the Pentagon spent more than $500,000 for Viagra in 2014.

That's a lot of money — but the figure wasn't even close to the real amount spent by the Defense Department for that erectile dysfunction drug and others.

According to data from the Defense Health Agency, DoD actually spent $41.6 million on Viagra — and $84.24 million total on erectile dysfunction prescriptions — last year.

And since 2011, the tab for drugs like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra totals $294 million — the equivalent of nearly four U.S. Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The Free Beacon based its analysis on 60 contracts for Viagra to Cardinal Health Inc., according to the article.

But those contracts tell only part of the story: DHA and its pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts run a vast organization that dispenses medications through military hospitals and clinics, by mail and at retail stores nationwide via multiple contracts.

And according to DHA, military beneficiaries, including active-duty personnel, retirees and eligible family members, filled nearly 1.18 million prescriptions for ED medications through this system in 2014.

While drugs such as Viagra, Cialis, Levitra and other phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors are prescribed for other conditions, such as pulmonary arterial hypertension, their most common use is for treating sexual dysfunction in men.

In the DoD system, which dispensed eight types of ED meds in 2014, Viagra, added to the DoD formulary in 2012, tops the list for most popular: Of the 1.18 million prescriptions, 905,083 were for Viagra, at a cost of $41.6 million.

Cialis ranked second, with 185,841 prescriptions totaling $22.82 million.

Revatio — one of the costliest ED medications in the DoD formulary — was the least frequently prescribed: 1,699 prescriptions in 2014 for a total cost of $2.24 million, according to DHA.

While some studies have shown that the incidence of erectile dysfunction has increased among service members in the past several years, less than 10 percent of the prescriptions were for active-duty troops.

According to the data, active-duty troops received just 102,885 scripts for ED meds, totaling $7.67 million.

A report published in September found that the incidence rate of ED among active-duty personnel more than doubled from 2004 to 2014.

Researchers at the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center found that the overall incidence rate of ED climbed from 5.8 cases per 1,000 person-years in 2004 to 12.6 cases in 2013, or more than 1 percent of the total population.

According to the report, 100,248 cases of ED were diagnosed among active-duty members from 2004 to 2013.

More than half of those were classified as "psychogenic," meaning the dysfunction was related to psychiatric rather than physical causes.

A number of factors can contribute to ED, from mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, to medications for treating physical and mental conditions as well as injuries, illness and aging.

DoD has launched a number of initiatives in the past several years to decrease its prescription medications costs, to include requiring Medicare-eligible retirees and their family members to get their long-term prescriptions at lower-cost options to the military, either by mail or at military treatment facilities.

Starting in October, retired service members and their eligible family members will have to do the same. Tricare has not released details of the planned transition but it was mandated by the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law in December.

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