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Va Formulary Costs Lives

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Medical Progress Report

No. 2 October 2005


New Report: VA Formulary Costs Lives

New York, NY: A new Manhattan Institute Center for Medical Progress report released today warns against using the VA Formulary as a model for the new Medicare Drug Benefit. The report finds that the VA National Formulary reduces the well-being, life span and survival rate for those covered.

This timely report, "Older Drugs, Shorter Lives?: An Examination of the Health Effects of the Veterans Health Administration Formulary," researched and written by Columbia Business School Professor Frank R. Lichtenberg, delves into the history of the VA National Formulary and estimates its impact on the use of new drugs and on longevity.

The majority of the VA National Formulary's drugs are more than 8 years old-just 19% of prescription drugs approved since 2000 and 38% of prescription drugs approved between 1990-2000 are on the VA Formulary.

Professor Lichtenberg estimates that "the use of older drugs in the VA system may have reduced life expectancy by 2.04 months," and that the value of this reduction was almost $25,000 per person.

Additionally, he found that veterans' life expectancy increased significantly before the [VA] National Formulary was introduced (between 1991-1997), but did not increase and may have declined after the [VA] National Formulary was introduced (between 1997-2002). Yet, the life expectancy of all U.S. males increased both before and after 1997.

The VA National Formulary, used as a model, will cut health care costs for Medicare, but Professor Lichtenberg provides evidence that restricting access to new drugs under Medicare will reduce the well-being and life span of the Medicare population. "We shouldn't let the government decide who gets what drug and who lives longest," says Robert Goldberg, Director of Center for Medical Progress. "Congress must embrace medical technologies in order to progress."

Frank R. Lichtenberg is the Courtney C. Brown Professor of Business at Columbia University Graduate School of Business, as well as a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

A copy of "Older Drugs, Shorter Lives?: An Examination of the Health Effects of the Veterans Health Administration Formulary" is available on the Manhattan Institute website, at


The Manhattan Institute, a 501©(3), is a think tank whose mission is to develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility.

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ANYBODY have a link to copy of the VA National Formulary??? I need to know if they have a Natural Progesterone suppliment (not progestin) - currently costing me about $25 per month out of pocket ... ~Wings

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This is where you are supposed to be able to get it, but I cannot get to the web site from the Philippines. It looks like another VA runaround, but maybe you can get it.

I know there is an Excel spreadsheet giving the changes for the last 3 months. Good luck.


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It has been my theory for a long time that the VA is dispensing old and inferior meds to Veterans. I know that the glyberide I was given by the VA was almost useless. No telling what else. From this article I wonder if the VA is buying outdated meds to save money after all they don't have to worry about anything but cost?

Most of my meds that I get except for brand from the VA come with the advise that the color the shape or the size may have changed but they are ok?

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