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GAO discussed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policies concerning over-the-counter (OTC) medications, medical supplies, and dietary supplements. GAO noted that: (1) VA pharmacies provide many OTC medications; (2) VA pharmacies dispensed analgesics nearly 3 million times in 1995; (3) some VA pharmacies restrict certain veterans from receiving OTC products, as well as the quantity that they can receive; (4) one-third of VA facilities reduced the number of OTC medications available; (5) network directors are working to achieve a level of consistency and cost-containment for VA facilities within their network; (6) non-VA health plans make OTC products available to all beneficiaries on a uniform basis; (7) these plans' coverage of OTC products are more restrictive than most VA facilities coverage; (8) VA pharmacies dispensed more than 15 million OTC products last year, at an estimated cost of $165 million; (9) VA recovered 4 percent of its total dispensing costs through veterans' copayments; (10) veterans medication costs depended on the type of product and their eligibility status; and (11) VA can reduce the resources it devotes to OTC medications by adhering to statutory eligibility rules, dispensing OTC products more efficiently, collecting copayments, reducing the number of OTC products available to outpatients, and expanding copayment requirements.

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