Defense Health Board approves individual use of multiple psychotropic drugs

This is the thirteenth story in an ongoing series.

The Defense Health Board endorsed a controversial recommendation allowing doctors to prescribe multiple psychotropic medications for individual troops in a draft report approved at a meeting last Monday in Tacoma, Wash.

Military and private clinicians and the families of troops who died as the result of multidrug toxicity told Nextgov they viewed these recommendations by the Defense Health Board as potentially deadly.

In June, the Psychotropic Medication Work Group and Complementary and Alternative Medicine Work Group of the Defense Health Board said, "The use of multiple psychotropic medications may be appropriate in select individuals. Polypharmacy can constitute a balanced approach to optimize functioning."

Slides of a presentation made at the Defense Health Board meeting on Aug. 8 showed that language on polypharmacy was unchanged from the June meeting and approved by board members, who are tasked to provide independent advice to the secretary of Defense to "maximize the health, safety and effectiveness of the U.S. armed forces."

The Aug. 8 report also included the same language in the June report, which sharply criticized the Military Health System for its inability to track the effects of these drug cocktails on troops, particularly those in combat zones: "Individual clinical and population-level MHS data systems do not comprehensively detect polypharmacy, adverse drug-drug interactions or potential for abuse, particular [sic] in theater."

Capt. Nita Sood, a Public Health Service pharmacist who serves as chief of staff for the TRICARE Management Activity Pharmaceutical Operations Directorate, which falls under the Military Health System, said MHS is "actively working on the development of an interface" that will support transmission of pharmacy information from combat zones to the Pharmacy Data Transaction Service, the department's central prescription data repository. It expects to complete the data exchange by the end of the year.

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