‘CBS Evening News’ Launches Two-Part Investigation Into Dubious Medicine For Military Personnel

CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley
Courtesy of CBS

“The CBS Evening News” on Tuesday night will feature something that could be hard to find on competing news programs: A special medicinal cream that is of so much value to those who need it that a one-month supply can cost as much as $15,000.

In the first part of a two-night report, CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod discovers that American taxpayers are spending millions of dollars on questionable medications for military personnel and veterans. The creams, which are touted as having the ability to soothe pain and scars, are marketed directly to military personnel, and dozens of websites advertise them as low-cost cure-alls for service members’ wounds and pain.

The catch, Axelrod finds, is that the medicines aren’t so cheap. Major General Richard Thomas, who oversees the military health benefit system Tricare, tells him the agency is on track to spend more than $2 billion in taxpayer funds in 2015 on the dubious prescriptions.

Axelrod has spent much time covering the rise of so-called “pharmaceutical compounding,” in which drugs are made for specific patients’ needs, sometimes by an outsourced pharmacy operation that may not be regulated as much as a hospital facility.

“We began to see a lot of insurance companies that were paying out a lot of money for these creams – migraine creams, scar creams, pain creams – and they would bill at exorbitant amounts of money,  Axelrod explained in an interview.

The report is part of an ongoing effort at “CBS Evening News” to focus on original and in-depth reporting. On Monday’s broadcast, CBS News looked at an increase in sexual misconduct cases in the U.S. Border Patrol. Each segment of Axlerod’s report will last between three and a half and four minutes, he said.

“It really is different from the other broadcasts that are on at the same time,” Axelrod said.

Tuesday’s report will depict CBS News producer Emily Rand posing as a possible sales representative and meeting with a marketer from one of those companies that sells the creams. In the second part of the report, slated to air Wednesday, Axelrod will look into who is writing the prescriptions, and confront a doctor who has issued them without meeting or talking to patients.