Independence Blue Cross to place restrictions on OxyContin to fight drug abuse

Pat Toddy
August 08, 2018 - 8:59 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The region's largest private health insurer is widening its efforts to combat the expanding opioid epidemic.

Independence Blue Cross will be issuing a new requirement to reduce the amount of patients who take OxyContin or oxycodone extended-release tablets. The switch will be made to a new drug called Xtampza XR, an extended-release abuse-deterrent form of oxycodone.

"That is not prone to diversion and abuse by crushing, grinding, cutting and injecting or snorting," said Richard Snyder, chief medical officer for Independence Blue Cross. "It does not produce the high that OxyContin does in those circumstances."

Collegium Pharmaceutical produces Xtampza, but because it's a new drug, results are limited on its effectiveness at controlling pain.

"In trials, it has been as effective as OxyContin or extended-release oxycodone," Snyder noted, "and therefore should not present a problem making a switch."

The financial impact of addiction on the insurer has been staggering. 

"An average member on average costs us about $5,000 a year. An average person who has a diagnosis of opioid use disorder is about $27,000 a year," he added.

Independence will require members to switch to the new painkiller on Oct. 1.

If problems arise with the medication, requests can be made to the area's largest private health insurer to change back with authorization from a doctor, though prescriptions for the soon-to-be non-preferred drug will have higher cost shares.