Aetna Is Waiving Copays for Medication that Reverses Opioid Overdoses

A pedestrian walks past a sign for health insurer Aetna Inc., at the company headquarters in Hartford, Conn.
A pedestrian walks past a sign for health insurer Aetna Inc., at the company headquarters in Hartford, Conn. Jessica Hill/AP Photo

Health insurance company Aetna is taking steps to help fight the opioid crisis in America.

The company announced Tuesday that it will be dropping copays for Narcan, a preferred brand of naloxone, a medication that reverses opioid overdose. It comes as a nasal spray, which family, friends, caregivers or first responders can administer to someone suffering from a known or suspected overdose.

The copay waiver will take effect Jan. 1, 2018, and it will be offered to Aetna’s fully insured commercial members.

A company press release says Aetna is the first national insurer to eliminate Narcan copays.

“Increasing access to Narcan can save lives so that individuals with opioid abuse disorder can live long enough to get into evidence-based treatment,” said Harold L. Paz, Aetna’s executive vice president and chief medical officer.

Financial Burdens of a Life-Saving Drug

The current cost to obtain Narcan can be a deterrent for some. According to Aetna, its members can pay up to $150, depending on their insurance plans — though the copay cost is typically in the $30 to $40 range.

Additionally, research from the manufacturer of Narcan shows higher copays make it more likely people will not get their prescriptions fulfilled.

This year, from January to June, about 35% of Aetna members who were prescribed Narcan did not pick up their prescriptions.

Additional Measures to Fight the Opioid Crisis

Along with Aetna’s announcement to improve access to Narcan, the company also shared it will put restrictions in place regarding pain medication that contains opioids.

Starting the first of the new year, Aetna commercial pharmacy members will be restricted to a seven-day supply for any opioids prescribed for acute pain or post-surgery recovery.

Research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows those who are prescribed opioids for longer periods of time suffer a greater likelihood of becoming chronic users.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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