Florida Blue to stop covering OxyContin prescriptions

(WSVN) - One of the largest health insurance companies in Florida says it will no longer cover a popular painkiller in an effort to fight opioid abuse.

Florida Blue announced it will no longer cover OxyContin in its commercial lines of business starting Jan. 1, 2018. Instead, it will provide Xtampza ER as a replacement.

According to the company’s press release, Xtampza ER is a new oxycodone formula developed specifically to help prevent abuse of the drug. It turns into a gel when crushed, making it difficult to snort or smoke. Xtampza also releases an opioid antagonist substance when crushed that minimizes the drug’s effect.

Florida Blue says the medicine is approved by the Federal Drug Administration to manage severe pain that requires long-term opioid treatment.

“People who abuse OxyContin typically try to tamper with the drug by crushing it, creating a higher and faster acting dose that can be snorted or injected. This type of consumption can quickly lead to addiction and overdose,” said Scott McClelland, Pharm.D., vice president of commercial and specialty pharmacy at Florida Blue. “After careful review of the scientific data supporting the abuse-deterrent features of Xtampza ER, we decided to replace OxyContin on the formulary and believe this will be an important step to addressing the opioid epidemic among the people we serve in the state.”

McClelland says the new drug will not only help reduce the number of overdose deaths, but will also have an effect on street prices.

“It makes the street value a lot less because it’s harder to manipulate,” McClelland said.

It’s the latest step the insurer has taken to fight prescription drug abuse. The company says it works to identify and manage physicians who show concerning patterns of writing opioid prescriptions. Florida Blue says it also uses as special investigation unit to identify potential fraudulent activity.

The move comes on the heels of Florida Governor Rick Scott proclaiming the opioid epidemic as a statewide emergency. The Centers for Disease Control declared a national opioid epidemic earlier this year.

The Florida Medical Examiners Commission’s 2016 interim report shows that toxicology results determined that opioids were present at the time of death in 4,515 Floridians last year.

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