Cigna Drops Coverage on OxyContin

Major insurer Cigna (NYSE: CI) — which is engaged in an effort to reduce abuse of prescription painkillers — announced Wednesday that it will effectively stop covering the cost of use of the opioid OxyContin by customers of its employer-based health plans beginning in January.
At the same time, Cigna announced a contract to continue covering a competing oxycodone alternative to OxyContin, which will impose a financial penalty on that drug's maker if too much of the drug ends up being used by the insurer's customers.
Oxycodone is used to treat moderate to severe pain.
Cigna's moves come more than a year after the insurer said it intended to cut opioid use among its customers by 25% by 2019.
The announcement also comes two months after President Donald Trump said the opioid-abuse crisis is a "national emergency."
More than half of those deaths were linked to prescription opioids such as OxyContin. The rest were related to heroin or to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.
OxyContin is the only opioid-based prescription painkiller that Cigna is removing in 2018 as "a preferred option" from its formulary, or list of medications that its health plans will pay for.
There were more than 33,000 opioid-related deaths in 2015, the highest tally on record, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cigna in 2016 announced a goal of slashing use of opioids among its customers by 25% over the next three years. Cigna said that as part of that initiative it would encourage doctors to prescribe the drugs in lesser quantities and for lesser amounts of time
Cigna shares opened Thursday trading down 87 cents from Wednesday’s close to $189.87.