Officials say the pharmacy at the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic at Eglin Air Force Base is not closing. By late next year, however, prescriptions will no longer be filled there. Veterans who need prescriptions filled will eventually need to do so through either private pharmacies or through the mail.

EGLIN AFB — Officials say the pharmacy at the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic at Eglin Air Force Base is not closing.

By late next year, however, prescriptions will no longer be filled there. Veterans who need prescriptions filled will eventually need to do so through either private pharmacies or through the mail.

“The Eglin CBOC (Community-Based Outpatient Clinic), like most CBOCs nationwide, is transitioning to a first-fill contract for emergent prescriptions," Rob Mims, chief of the Community and Public Affairs Service for the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, said in an email responding to rumors circulating among local veterans. “If a veteran needs a prescription immediately, they will be able to use the first-fill contract pharmacies in the community. All other medications will be mailed from Biloxi or from the VA centralized mail-out pharmacy which is the current process.”

The transition to the first-fill contract is ongoing, and is expected to be completed by October of next year, according to GCVHS officials.

The VA pharmacy's transition to a "first-fill contract" means that prescriptions for medications that a veteran needs immediately — deemed medically necessary by the prescribing physician — will have to be filled through local retail pharmacies.

As opposed to those “emergent” prescription needs that will be filled by private pharmacies, veterans’ “maintenance” medications — prescriptions for chronic long-term conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — will continue to be provided through the VA’s mail-out pharmacy services and sent directly to veterans’ home addresses.

First-fill contracts are already in place in other VA facilities, and GCVHS is “simply expanding an existing process that has already been proven ... by other VA facilities as a fiscally responsible means to provide urgent medication needs and expand clinical services to increase patient access,” according to the email.

Local veterans are being made aware of the move through town-hall meetings and their primary care team. Multiple area pharmacies are part of the first-fill contract, and those choices are communicated regularly to patients, according to GCVHS officials.

“The full implementation will take place over the next few months, and patients will be fully educated as the process is phased in,” according to the GCVHS.

One local veteran, who did not want his name used for this story, said the switch to a first-fill contract will be an inconvenience to many veterans who use the VA clinic at Eglin and are used to having their prescriptions filled on-site.

The veteran also contends that the VA isn't letting veterans know about the change. The switch hasn't been mentioned in his own visits to the pharmacy, he said.

"If it's such a great deal, why haven't they told people?'" the veteran wondered.