Medicare Drug Plans Favor Generic Opioids Over Those Designed to Avoid Abuse

The abuse of prescription painkillers is a growing problem for seniors, as it is for other age groups. But a recent study by Avalere Health study has found that Medicare drug plans cutting back on coverage for a specially designated type of painkiller that deters abuse in favor of cheaper generics that don’t have the same deterrent qualities. Overall, Medicare coverage for long-acting prescription opioids declined from an average 46 percent of plans in 2012 to 36 percent of plans in 2015. But coverage of OxyContin, a brand-name drug that has received “abuse-deterrent labeling” from the Food and Drug Administration, fell off more sharply than other long-acting opioids that didn’t receive the deterrent labeling during that time period. The abuse-deterrent labeling approval means a drug is formulated to make it tougher for patients to snort, inject, or otherwise misuse. OxyContin received the designation in 2013; the FDA announcement noted the pills were difficult to crush, break or dissolve, forming a “viscous hydrogel” when tampered with that can’t be easily injected. Despite its abuse-deterrent labeling, OxyContin’s coverage rate in the Medicare drug plans, sometimes called Part D plans, dropped from 61 percent in 2012 to 33 percent in 2015, the study found.

Source/more: PBS Newshour

David Wingate is an elder law attorney who practices in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland. The elder law practice consists of wills, powers of attorneys, living wills, trusts, asset protection and Medicaid (Medical Assistance).

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