Blue Cross of Alabama announced Wednesday that it would drop standard formulation of OxyContin coverage in 2019 as an effort to deter opioid abuse. According to Alabama’s opioid action plan, there were 742 overdose deaths in 2016. 

University of Alabama at Birmingham professor and addiction specialist Stefan Kertesz, M.D., says that this act most likely will not reduce overdoses in long term pain patients.

“There is tremendous pressure on insurers to show good faith that they are trying to do something about a crisis. The most important thing they can do is advance support for treatment in cases of addiction. Relatively few persons, mostly the quite ill, receive long acting opioids at this point. Switching these patients to a different long acting opioid it is not likely to alter the crisis in this state concerning overdose. The challenge is to recognize that these types of opioid prescriptions have fallen a lot in the last seven years.” 

Blue Cross of Alabama is the most recent provider to drop OxyContin coverage. In September, Blue Cross of Tennessee announced they would drop in 2019, while Cigna and Blue Cross of Florida have already dropped.

Kertesz is available for comment on the impact of Blue Cross of Alabama’s decision, opioids and drug policy and more.