OxyContin No Longer Covered By Major Insurer

By Bryan Le 11/13/17

The insurer is replacing coverage of Purdue Pharma's OxyContin with a tamper-proof, extended release opioid.

Oxycontin bottle on shelf in the pharmacy. Oxycontin is known in the news to be a cause of pain killer overdose and addiction
OxyContin is out.

The biggest health care insurer in the state of Florida, Florida Blue, has announced it will stop covering OxyContin in a bid to help end the opioid epidemic.

Starting on the first of January 2018, the company will instead offer coverage for Xtampza ER, which is a slower-acting, extended release variant of oxycodone.

“Most physicians, most plans have had a hands-off approach for a number of years, and we see where we are now,” said Scott McClelland, vice president of commercial and specialty pharmacy at Florida Blue. “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.”

Xtampza ER was chosen because it is designed to be “abuse deterrent,” difficult to crush into powder that might be injected or snorted.

As it grows worse, the opioid crisis has risen in the public spotlight. President Donald Trump has declared the crisis a public health emergency—though whether his administration will actually take a novel and compassionate approach to solving it remains to be seen. (Especially considering the old-school drug war tactics that his Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to favor.)

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway has also unhelpfully suggested that the best way for people to prevent OD deaths is “not starting in the first place.”

OxyContin has also been targeted by others fighting the opioid crisis. Recently, New Jersey became the latest of at least 11 states moving to sue Purdue Pharma, the proprietors of OxyContin, for their marketing tactics that allegedly ignored the long-term effects of their opioid medications.

“In a campaign of almost inconceivable callousness and irresponsibility, we allege that Purdue has spent hundreds of millions of marketing dollars to downplay the addiction risk associated with taking opioids for chronic pain, all the while exaggerating the benefits of using these dangerous drugs,” said New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino in a press release. 

Cigna, a nation-wide health insurer, will also stop coverage of OxyContin in favor of Xtampza ER.

“Our focus is on helping customers get the most value from their medications,” said Cigna's chief pharmacy officer Jon Maesner in a statement. “This means obtaining effective pain relief while also guarding against opioid misuse.”

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter