Cigna Will Stop Covering OxyContin in Effort to Reduce Inappropriate Use

Health insurer Cigna announced this week it will stop covering the prescription opioid OxyContin in an effort to reduce inappropriate use of the drug. Instead it will cover an equivalent drug less vulnerable to being misused.

The alternate drug is Xtampza ER, made by Collegium Pharmaceutical Inc. Xtampza ER cannot be made more fast-acting through cutting or crushing, Cigna said. The change will go into effect January 1, 2018, Reuters reports.

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American Indian Tribal Leaders Meet With Justice Department About Opioid Epidemic

The U.S. Justice Department is scheduled to meet with American Indian tribal leaders from northern New Mexico about the opioid epidemic, the Associated Press reports.

Opioid addiction has had a large impact on American Indian communities across the country, the article notes. A survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found use of heroin and OxyContin among American Indian students was about two to three times higher than the national averages from 2009 to 2012.

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Prescription Drug Monitoring Databases Help States Fight Opioid Epidemic

Prescription drug monitoring databases are assisting states in battling the opioid epidemic, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A recent study found there was more than a 30 percent decrease in the rate of prescribing Schedule II opioids (such as Oxycontin and Percocet) in two dozen states with such monitoring programs.

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Federal Effort to Curb Painkiller Prescribing Faces Opposition

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) face stiff opposition to its effort to reduce prescribing of opioid painkillers, the Associated Press reports. Critics of new prescribing guidelines include drug manufacturers, industry-funded groups and some public health officials.

The guidelines, which were originally scheduled to be released this month, are designed to reverse the increase in deadly overdoses of opioid painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet. They are not binding.

Opponents of the guidelines say they have been largely written behind closed doors, the AP notes. Officials from the Food and Drug Administration and other health agencies called the guidelines “shortsighted,” relying on “low-quality evidence.” The officials said they plan to file a formal complaint.

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Heroin’s Low Cost and Easy Access Attract People Addicted to Painkillers: Study

A study of people addicted to painkillers who began using heroin confirms that many of them were drawn to heroin’s low cost and wide availability.

Researchers surveyed 15,000 people being treated for drug addiction, and conducted in-depth interviews with 267 of them. They found almost half of those interviewed were addicted to opioid painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet before using heroin,HealthDay reports.

Three-fourths of those interviewed said they tried heroin because of its lower cost and greater availability.

Lead researcher Theodore Cicero of Washington University in St. Louis said heroin use began rising after the federal government began shutting down “pill mills” and doctors who illegally prescribe opioids.

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