TRICARE Users Face Limits on Prescriptions Connected to COVID-19

TRICARE Users Face Limits on Prescriptions Connected to COVID-19
Photo by Lisa Tourtelot/Army

[UPDATED April 21:  MOAA has received clarification on fill limits for hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil). While Express Scripts is not currently experiencing hydroxychloroquine shortages, TRICARE mail order prescription fills for hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) will be limited to a 30-day supply to help manage the surge in demand related to COVID-19. We apologize for any confusion. We will keep you updated as prescription fill policies evolve.]


If you are prescribed certain types of inhalers and seeking refills, or you are starting a new prescription of hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), the amount you receive will be restricted under new limits designed to combat coronavirus-related shortages.


Below are details regarding the limits. If you have trouble filling your prescription medications of any type for reasons connected to the COVID-19 pandemic or response, please Share your story or report your problem by emailing


[RELATED: Ask Congress to Waive TRICARE Pharmacy Copays During the Pandemic]



The Defense Health Agency (DHA) has announced refill limits on albuterol and levalbuterol inhalers. Demand for inhalers is much higher than normal because of the increased use in hospitals for COVID-19 patients and individuals presenting with symptoms.


Refill limits are intended to help balance the demand with supply, ensuring all patients have access to inhalers. The decision to impose quantity limits is in line with guidance from multiple nationwide health systems and the American Medical Association (AMA).


Although MOAA has expressed concerns about U.S. dependence on medicines manufactured in China and has supported legislation to bring pharmaceutical manufacturing back to the U.S., supply chain issues do not seem to be a factor in the case of inhalers.


“We’re monitoring the availability of these medications on a daily basis,” DHA officials stated in announcing the policy. “We will remove the quantity limits as the supply of these medications becomes available. All manufacturers of these products are increasing production levels to meet this increased demand. There are no current long-term shortages projected.”




Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)

Express Scripts is also limiting mail order fill quantities on new hydroxychloroquine prescriptions, another medication facing increased demand due to COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is used to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other conditions, but it also has been identified as a possible treatment for COVID-19.


The AMA, American Pharmacists Association, and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists issued a joint statement on inappropriate ordering, prescribing, or dispensing of medications – including hydroxychloroquine – to treat COVID-19.


MOAA has heard from some beneficiaries who have been unable to fill their hydroxychloroquine prescriptions at military treatment facilities. We have advised on the switch to home delivery and followed up with Express Scripts.


Express Scripts is not currently experiencing hydroxychloroquine shortages. However, hydroxychloroquine prescriptions will be limited to a 30-day supply with each fill to help manage the surge in demand.


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About the Author

Karen Ruedisueli
Karen Ruedisueli

Ruedisueli is MOAA’s Director of Government Relations for Health Affairs and also serves as co-chair of The Military Coalition’s (TMC) Health Care Committee. She spent six years with the National Military Family Association, advocating for families of the uniformed services with a focus on health care and military caregivers.