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Aetna to Waive Narcan Co-Pays, Combat Opioid Overprescribing

Aetna added new measures to address the nation’s opioid crisis which include eliminating Narcan co-pays for fully insured members and managing oversprescribing risks.

Aetna will waive Narcan co-pays for members

Source: Thinkstock

By Thomas Beaton

- Aetna will be the first national payer to waive Narcan co-pays for fully-insured members as part of a larger effort to address the nation’s opioid crisis, the payer announced in a press release.

Narcan is considered a preferred branded medication, which means that a beneficiary could pay up to $150 for the drug.

Aetna believes eliminating co-pays on Narcan will help increase medication adherence after reviewing the relationship between Aetna member co-payment amounts and Narcan adherence.

Roughly 76.6 percent of Aetna members did not pick up their Narcan prescriptions if their co-pays were anywhere from $100 to $150. The rate of Narcan prescription abandonment fell to 46.1 percent when co-pay amounts ranged from $40 to $50.

“Cost is clearly a factor in whether individuals with substance abuse disorder obtain medication that could save them from a fatal overdose,” said Harold L. Paz, MD, MS, executive vice president and chief medical officer of Aetna. “By eliminating this barrier, we hope to keep our members safe until they are ready to address their addiction.”

“Increasing access to Narcan can save lives so that individuals with opioid abuse disorder can live long enough to get into evidence-based treatment.”

In addition, Aetna plans to put a seven-day limit on opioids prescribed for acute pain and post-surgical pain management for commercial pharmacy members.

The payer cited CDC data that found six percent of individuals prescribed a one-day supply of opioids are still using opioids a year later. Thirteen percent of individuals with an eight-day supply of opioids still used the drugs the following year, and 30 percent of individuals developed opioid dependence after receiving a 30-day or higher supply.

Aetna’s prescribing changes follow other updates to their opioid safety efforts which included ending preauthorization requirements for members receiving buprenorphine products and donating Narcan to first responders in regions of Kentucky and Appalachia.

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