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Cyberattack creating delays for military pharmacies across the world

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A cyberattack at one of the largest commercial prescription processors in the country is creating delays for military pharmacies across the world.

Multiple veterans have reached out to KRDO13 Investigates claiming they aren’t able to get their prescriptions filled or are experiencing longer than usual wait times. This is due to a cyberattack last week against Change Healthcare, a commercial prescription processor and partner of UnitedHealth Group.

The attack affects about a third of pharmacies across the country, with many now forced to process prescriptions manually leading to lengthy delays. Veteran Affairs told KRDO13 Investigates it disconnected from Change Healthcare to protect patient information, impacting all military pharmacies worldwide. However, it said VA pharmacies are not affected.

“The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is actively monitoring the nationwide outages caused by cybersecurity breach impacting Change Healthcare this week – and VA has taken swift action to disconnect from all known systems with Change Healthcare.

While we are aware that many non-VA pharmacies are impacted, VA medical centers and pharmacies are operational, and we are actively working to ensure that all Veteran needs are addressed. If Veterans experience a problem filling a prescription by a VA healthcare provider or a VA-authorized community provider, they should contact their local VA pharmacy or call 1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411).” 

Some of the thousands of military pharmacies affected by this outage are right here in Colorado Springs, including pharmacies at Fort Carson, Peterson Space Force Base and the Air Force Academy.

“We had information automation systems that would do some of our regulatory checks on every single prescription that goes through the pharmacy system. That's industry standard,” said Major Emily Holcomb, the director of pharmacy services at Evans Army Community Hospital on Fort Carson. “When that was disrupted, we instituted a manual process to make sure those regulatory requirements are still met.”

Despite these changes, Holcomb said all prescription refills and urgent medications are being filled on time. It’s the routine prescriptions that are seeing delays. However, Holcomb told KRDO13 Investigates those delays vary depending on the patient and the prescription. She said on average it’s taking 24 to 48 hours longer than usual.

“We're here to support you,” Holcomb said. “We have everything in place. It may take a little longer, but we have the capability to provide the prescriptions that they need.”

There is no timeline on when Change Healthcare’s system will be back up and running or how long these prescription delays will last. UnitedHealth Group provided a statement to KRDO13 Investigates with more information on the cyberattack on its partner Change Healthcare: 

“Since identifying the cyber incident, we have worked closely with customers and clients to ensure people have access to the medications and the care they need. We also continue to work closely with law enforcement and a number of third parties, including Mandiant and Palo Alto Networks, on this attack against Change Healthcare’s systems. We appreciate the partnership and hard work of all of our relevant stakeholders to ensure providers and pharmacists have effective workarounds to serve their patients as systems are restored to normal. As we remediate, the most impacted partners are those who have disconnected from our systems and/or have not chosen to execute workarounds.”

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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