The insurance provider is replacing Oxycontin with Xtampza and Morphabond, whose formulas make them more difficult to crush and delay the high.
Although the replacement drugs cost more, BCBS will keep member co-pays the same as they were for Oxycontin.
BCBS is also lowering the daily maximum morphine milligram equivalent (MME) of any opioid, patch, pill or syrup, to 120 ml.
“We feel that’s still too high, but that’s where Medicare will be,” Willis said. “Higher doses overtime have not been shown to reduce pain anymore.”
As an alternative to opioids, BCBS will now cover acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice in which thin needles are inserted in key points of the body to relieve pain and treat other conditions.
Acupuncture has been shown to have a relevant effect on chronic pain that persists over time that cannot be solely explained by placebo effects, according to research by the Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration, published in the May 2018 edition of The Journal of Pain, the official journal of the American Pain Society.
BCBS is encouraging providers to ask questions such as — have you ever been diagnosed with addiction? does addiction run in your family? have you ever had a problem getting off of a substance? — to identify members who could be at risk of opioid addiction.
“The beauty of all these efforts is to let everyone know they can be at risk,” Willis said. “People may not know they have a predisposition until asked.”