With the opioid epidemic declared a public health emergency, insurance companies are scrambling to figure out what to do next. However, in Florida, the state’s largest insurer has come up with its own answer. Florida Blue, in an effort to halt the growing opioid epidemic, recently announced it will no longer cover the common opioid Oxycontin. According to the Miami Herald, on January 1st Florida Blue will no longer cover the drug, hoping this will decrease the amount of prescriptions written for the drug. The opioid problem in America, brought to higher levels of scrutiny since President Trump proclaimed it a public health crisis in October, has insurance companies looking for ways to limit the chances of Oxycontin abuse.
Based on current numbers, overdose deaths due to opioid abuse have reached record numbers. Because of this, Florida Blue, rather than covering Oxycontin, will instead cover the drug XtampzaER, a similar drug that is an extended-release version. By doing so, the company hopes to help lessen the number of unexpected deaths resulting from abuse of the drug.
A Proactive Approach
In its effort to help control the opioid epidemic, Florida Blue believes it is taking a very proactive approach. According to the company, many doctors have chosen to take a hands-off approach over the past decade, which many in the insurance industry believe has helped create the current problem. However, rather than sit back and continue to let others handle the issue, Florida Blue believes that by being proactive, this approach will force more doctors, nurses, social workers, and family members of those abusing opioids to face the issue head-on and find solutions to the problem.
What is XtampzaER?
While a very similar drug to Oxycontin, XtampzaER is quite different in a number of ways. Since it is a longer-lasting version of the drug, it is considered much harder to abuse than Oxycontin. Along with this, its capsule cannot be crushed or chewed. Because of this, the drug is virtually impossible to manipulate, preventing people from injecting it or snorting it. Deemed by Florida Blue to be a very abuse-deterrent drug, the company anticipates abuse numbers of opioids to decrease once the new changes begin January 1st.
Other Insurance Companies Follow Florida Blue
Unbeknownst to most people other than those in the insurance industry and healthcare field, Florida Blue is not the only insurance company to stop covering Oxycontin in an effort to reduce opioid abuse. Cigna, one of the nation’s largest insurers, announced this past October that it too will no longer cover Oxycontin, but will cover XtampzaER like Florida Blue.
Deceptive Marketing Practices
As is the case in many situations involving drug abuse, the manufacturers of Oxycontin have come under intense scrutiny, and are now facing a number of lawsuits claiming they engaged in deceptive marketing practices against consumers. This is the case with Purdue Pharma, which now faces lawsuits from Washington, Louisiana, and New Jersey, with other states expected to file lawsuits in the near future. However, despite the allegations against them, Purdue Pharma denies any wrongdoing in this matter. Instead, the company announced its belief that both Oxycontin and XtampzaER both have abuse-deterring designs, therefore making the problems with opioid abuse the fault of the users, rather than the company.
As the lawsuits play out in the courts, it’s believed more insurance companies may attempt to follow the path of Florida Blue. By doing so, the insurers will in essence attempt to not only control the drug abuse issues, but also put themselves in positions lessening the likelihood they too may be sued.
Learn more about Drug Safety News.