The cost of military prescription drugs is soaring, and the many prescriptions for addictive opioids is partly to blame. According to an investigation by the Austin-American Statesman, the cost of prescription drugs is taking up a growing share of the defense budget: “Last year, the Pentagon spent more on pills, injections and vaccines than it did on Black Hawk helicopters, Abrams tanks, Hercules C-130 cargo planes and Patriot missiles — combined.”
This is in part due to rising health care costs and an increasing number of aging veterans and military retirees. However, part of the problem is due to the military’s reliance on antidepressants, psychotropic drugs and addictive narcotic painkillers. According to the investigation, the military has spent at least $1.6 billion on opioid painkillers over the last decade.
In addition, some drugs are being prescribed for off-label use. The Department of Defense spent $340 million on Seroquel—an anti-psychotic approved for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder but marketed to treat anxiety, PTSD and insomnia—before the maker of Seroquel agreed to pay $520 million to settle a lawsuit alleging it illegally marketed the drug for off-label uses. Experts are concerned that the increasing cost of prescription drugs will claim an ever-larger share of the military budget, diverting money that might be used for weapons or training.
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