Florida Blue, the state’s largest health insurer, will no longer cover OxyContin as the nation faces an opioid epidemic that has been declared a public health emergency.
The insurer will stop covering the drug beginning Jan. 1 in an effort to stem the abuse of the popular painkiller, the Miami Herald reports. President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in October as overdose deaths have reached record numbers. Instead of OxyContin, a brand name for oxycodone, Florida Blue will cover Xtampza ER, an extended-release version.
“Most physicians, most plans have had a hands-off approach for a number of years, and we see where we are now,” Scott McClelland, Florida Blue’s vice president of commercial and specialty pharmacy, told the Miami Herald. “We think it’s time for more people, including physicians in our community, the nurses, even the families to take a more proactive approach in trying to manage this epidemic.”
More than 90 Americans die every day of opioid overdoses as a result of misuse and abuse of drugs. Xtampza ER is considered an abuse deterrent because its capsule cannot be crushed or chewed in an effort to manipulate the drug to make it easier to inject or snort.
Florida Blue is not the first to stop coverage for OxyContin. Cigna, one of the country’s largest health care insurers, announced in October that it would stop covering the drug on most of its plans in favor of Xtampza ER.
Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactures OxyContin, is facing a number of lawsuits claiming deceptive marketing practices have fueled abuse. Among the states suing the pharmaceutical manufacturer are Washington, Louisiana and New Jersey.
The company denies the allegations and has said that both OxyContin and Xtampza ER have abuse-deterring designs.
“Unfortunately, Cigna’s decision limits the tools prescribers can use to help address the opioid crisis as both products are formulated with properties designed to deter abuse,” a company spokesperson told CNBC.
The company gave a similar statement to the Miami Herald regarding Florida Blue’s coverage change.