A few months ago, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, announced that they would stop covering Oxycontin, a drug known for its addictive properties as well as its manipulation of doctors through marketing. The makers of Oxy, Perdue Pharma, have also stopped marketing the drugs to doctors, perhaps as a result of dozens of lawsuits stemming from the opioid addiction crisis here in the US.
While many people hail this as a good sign, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage of pain relievers aren’t going to stop doctors from prescribing the medication in its generic form, or other variations of opioids in its place.
A closer look at the changes that Blue Cross is making shows that the company isn’t necessarily shunning opioids. They still plan to cover oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin. Instead, they plan on shifting coverage to new formulations designed to be harder to abuse.
Two New Drugs Blue Cross is Covering
RoxyBond is short-acting (SA) oxycodone formulation with what the FDA says has abuse-deterrent properties, for treatment of pain requiring management with an opioid. It’s the first short-acting opioid to be approved as an abuse-deterrent product. Roxybond is meant for short-term pain relief, rather than chronic pain relief.
Xtampza ER, an extended-release pain reliever, is also considered an abuse-deterrent drug. As an extended-release product, it is more appropriate for consistent or chronic pain and is supposed to be more of a last resort when it comes to pain medication.
What are Abuse-Deterring Opioids?
The FDA is the only entity that can approve the label of “abuse-deterrent” when it comes to addictive drugs.
These types of opioids are still relatively new in the pharmaceutical industry. Abuse-deterrent opioid formulations have properties that make abuse of the drug more difficult and “less attractive” to recreational users. However, they still contain addictive drugs. They also tend to cost more than other opioids on the market, and whether they reduce overall opioid abuse remains to be determined. However, the FDA has been fast-tracking pain medications with these properties in hopes that they can help curb the opioid epidemic.
There is nothing that prevents drug-takers from misusing these drugs by taking too many, and overdose is still possible.