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Cyberattack Disrupts U.S. Military Pharmacies Worldwide

Update 4/9/2024: Military pharmacies are back to full operating capacity following the cyberattack mentioned in the article below. Change Healthcare (the agency responsible for processing aspects of military pharmacy benefits related to insurance coverage) removed itself from the military healthcare system while it worked on the security breach. It has since returned to full operations.

Change Healthcare Cyberattack

On February 21, 2024, Change Healthcare announced it was experiencing a cyberattack and that basic services were delayed as a result.

The attack included major worldwide disruptions to military pharmacy operations; Change Healthcare is the private service provided by the military to process pharmacy orders at stateside and overseas bases.

Change Healthcare operations from Scott Air Force Base in Illinois to Kadena Air Base, Japan were affected. Some stateside civilian pharmacy operations were also disrupted.

Response to the Cyberattack

An announcement on the Change Healthcare official site explained how the attack and response to it unfolded.

“Once we became aware of the outside threat, and in the interest of protecting our partners and patients, we took immediate action to disconnect Change Healthcare’s systems to prevent further impact.”

Company officials have “a high-level of confidence that Optum, UnitedHealthcare and UnitedHealth Group systems have not been affected by this issue.”

Related: TRICARE Benefits Guide

Disrupted Military Pharmacy Operations

The cyberattack forced typically military pharmacies to operate with only their current prescription supplies.

Some warned patients to expect delays, with one announcement from the Yokota Air Base Medical Group going so far as to state, “There is currently no estimated timeline for system restoration.”.

Some clinics are prioritizing prescription filling operations, with urgent needs met first. Some clinics ask patients to be mindful of the timing when seeking refills in the current situation, requesting patients to delay seeking new refills as long as reasonable.

Waiting Out the Pharmacy Cyberattack Disruption

What did patients do while Change Healthcare sorted out the problem? Some were advised about the option to get prescriptions filled outside the military healthcare network but were also warned at the same time that copays and additional costs may be required.

But soon after the cyberattack became known, Military.com reports the Defense Health Agency issued a requirement that military pharmacies find “a solution to restore all prescription-filling capabilities” to prevent patients from feeling the need to seek options at a higher cost elsewhere.

What’s Next?

At press time, Change Healthcare has repeated the same text on its official site for every post marked “update” related to the cyberattack.

The company promises, “We are working on multiple approaches to restore the impacted environment and will not take any shortcuts or take any additional risk as we bring our systems back online,” with a note that disruptions are expected “to last at least through the day.”

However, that text has not changed since it was posted for the first time on February 21, 2024. This is a developing story.

Related: TRICARE Benefits Guide

About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.