This state’s largest insurer just cut coverage to OxyContin

In an effort to prevent opioid abuse, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama will no longer cover OxyContin.

The insurer announced Wednesday it will stop covering the medication on Jan. 1, in response to the hundreds of overdose deaths that occur yearly in the state. In 2016, 742 people died after overdosing on opioids in Alabama. BCBS will continue to cover certain types of oxycodone and alternatives, the insurer said. OxyContin is the brand name for oxycodone, an opioid medication that treats moderate to severe pain and is highly addictive.

Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, said it no longer markets opioids to prescribing healthcare professionals through a sales team but remains committed to patients who need the medication. “The nation’s opioid crisis is a significant and urgent public health challenge, and Purdue Pharma is deeply concerned about the toll this crisis is having on communities,” the company said in a statement. The manufacturer reformulated OxyContin eight years ago to deter intranasal and intravenous abuse.

See: Opioids only partly explain America’s ‘deaths of despair’

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama isn’t the first insurer to react to opioid abuse. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee also said it would drop OxyContin coverage next year, and Cigna stopped covering the drug in January 2018. “Our focus is on helping customers get the most value from their medications — this means obtaining effective pain relief while also guarding against opioid misuse,” Cigna said last year.

Florida’s largest insurer, Florida Blue,(a licensee of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida) stopped covering OxyContin prescriptions there in January 2018. The insurer said there was a 68% reduction in utilization of OxyContin, and that it has seen a 75% increase in non-opioid prescriptions to its members across the state, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (such as Motrin and Advil) and non-drug treatments (exercise, physical therapy and relaxation training).

Opioids are more likely to be prescribed in places with lower median household incomes and higher unemployment rates, and prescriptions for them are more prevalent among people who are 55 to 64 years old, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of almost 3.5 million adults under 65 with disabilities and receiving Medicare Part D. The South, Southwest and Midwest are where opioid prescriptions were most common, the CDC found.

More than 115 people die after overdosing on opioids every day in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. More than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids (a two-fold increase in 10 years), according to preliminary CDC data. That’s compared to 41,000 Americans who died in car crashes last year.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama said opioid prescriptions across the country, and specifically Alabama, have been declining since 2015, and over the last two years prescriptions for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s members have decreased 18%. Still, “while progress is being made, this issue calls for continued action by all parties,” Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama said in a statement.

Also see: Jamie Lee Curtis: ‘I was ahead of the curve of the opiate epidemic’

But defeating opioid abuse and overdose deaths may be an uphill battle. Despite concerns from health advocates, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new opioid medication earlier this month that is at least 500 times stronger than morphine. AceIRx Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of this medication (called Dsuvia), said it was dose-adjusted to be no stronger than already available medications like it.

President Donald Trump declared opioid addiction a national health emergency in October 2017. The Senate passed bipartisan legislation in September 2018 to combat the opioid crisis. To become law, the bill would have to be reconciled with legislation the House of Representatives passed earlier in the year, though Senate members said they were optimistic that could happen by the end of the year.

Get a daily roundup of the top reads in personal finance delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to MarketWatch's free Personal Finance Daily newsletter. Sign up here.

More from MarketWatch
Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts


MarketTamer is not an investment advisor and is not registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Further, owners, employees, agents or representatives of MarketTamer are not acting as investment advisors and might not be registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or the Financial Industry Regulatory.

This company makes no representations or warranties concerning the products, practices or procedures of any company or entity mentioned or recommended in this email, and makes no representations or warranties concerning said company or entity’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including, but not limited to, regulations promulgated by the SEC or the CFTC. The sender of this email may receive a portion of the proceeds from the sale of any products or services offered by a company or entity mentioned or recommended in this email. The recipient of this email assumes responsibility for conducting its own due diligence on the aforementioned company or entity and assumes full responsibility, and releases the sender from liability, for any purchase or order made from any company or entity mentioned or recommended in this email.

The content on any of MarketTamer websites, products or communication is for educational purposes only. Nothing in its products, services, or communications shall be construed as a solicitation and/or recommendation to buy or sell a security. Trading stocks, options and other securities involves risk. The risk of loss in trading securities can be substantial. The risk involved with trading stocks, options and other securities is not suitable for all investors. Prior to buying or selling an option, an investor must evaluate his/her own personal financial situation and consider all relevant risk factors. See: Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options. The educational training program and software services are provided to improve financial understanding.

The information presented in this site is not intended to be used as the sole basis of any investment decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the investment needs of any particular investor. Nothing in our research constitutes legal, accounting or tax advice or individually tailored investment advice. Our research is prepared for general circulation and has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive or obtain access to it. Our research is based on sources that we believe to be reliable. However, we do not make any representation or warranty, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy of our research, the completeness, or correctness or make any guarantee or other promise as to any results that may be obtained from using our research. To the maximum extent permitted by law, neither we, any of our affiliates, nor any other person, shall have any liability whatsoever to any person for any loss or expense, whether direct, indirect, consequential, incidental or otherwise, arising from or relating in any way to any use of or reliance on our research or the information contained therein. Some discussions contain forward looking statements which are based on current expectations and differences can be expected. All of our research, including the estimates, opinions and information contained therein, reflects our judgment as of the publication or other dissemination date of the research and is subject to change without notice. Further, we expressly disclaim any responsibility to update such research. Investing involves substantial risk. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results, and a loss of original capital may occur. No one receiving or accessing our research should make any investment decision without first consulting his or her own personal financial advisor and conducting his or her own research and due diligence, including carefully reviewing any applicable prospectuses, press releases, reports and other public filings of the issuer of any securities being considered. None of the information presented should be construed as an offer to sell or buy any particular security. As always, use your best judgment when investing.