Senator Jim Webb called on the Surgeons General from the Department of Defense to explain processes employed for data-collection and record-keeping regarding the prescription of drugs to our nation's military servicemembers. "I have asked a number of times for data on the reported increase in prescription drug usage in our armed services; I am concerned that we may not even have it for servicemembers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan," Webb said.
On Monday, the Senate Armed Services Committee released a statement with the FY2011 National Defense Authorization Act that the committee "remains concerned about DOD's inability to track the prescription and administration of medications in theater, especially of psychotropic medications. In response to questions for the record [submitted by Senator Webb] from a March 2010 Subcommittee on Personnel hearing on the military health care system, the committee was informed that the Military Health System Pharmacy Data Transaction Service has no visibility of pharmacy data for prescriptions dispensed in forward operating areas."
Webb, who chairs the Subcommittee on Personnel, has raised serious concerns regarding reports of significant growth in prescription drug use among active duty servicemembers.
"Three months ago in an Armed Services hearing, Army Surgeon General Shoomaker downplayed media reports of skyrocketing prescription drug use of those serving in the Army," said Webb. "I am still waiting to see existing data across services and a judgment on these findings. Are we using a different approach to prescribing medications than in the past? What do the numbers show us, if anything, in terms of the stress on our force?"
The Senate Armed Services Committee on Monday also announced that a reporting requirement had been added to the FY2011 National Defense Authorization Act requiring the DOD to keep health records that detail the prescription and administration of psychotropic medications. "The committee expects the Department to expeditiously implement a reliable method to track and manage the prescription and use of pharmaceuticals, to include psychotropic medications, by deployed service members." The provision also requires that the results of medical examinations conducted under the system include information on the prescription and administration of psychotropic medications.
Senator Webb has been a leader in the Senate on military and veterans issues, advocating improved health care for wounded warriors, legislation to ensure proper rotational cycles for our troops serving repeat combat deployments overseas, and streamlining of the medical evaluation boards used to evaluate a service member's fitness to serve following injuries or wounds in combat.