Aetna- the large National insurance company- plans to waive co-pays for the potential life-saving prescription Narcan, in efforts to help fight the opioid epidemic.
The insurance company announced early last week that it will try to combat the opioid crisis by eliminating co-pays for the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan and limiting durations of first-time opioid prescriptions.
“Aetna is committed to addressing the opioid crisis through prevention, intervention, and treatment,” Harold L. Paz, MD, MS, executive vice president and the chief medical officer said. “Increasing access to Narcan can save lives so that individuals with opioid abuse disorder can live long enough to get into evidence-based treatment.”
Research conducted by the producing company of Narcan reported that almost 35 percent of Aetna members prescribed the drug between January to June 2017 did not pick up their prescription. It’s important to remember that the drug is typically taken in the case of an emergency- and even if at the time those prescribed feel it’s an option not to pick it up, having it on them in case of an overdose could be the deciding factor between life and death.
By waiving the co-pay, Aetna representatives believe they can reduce barriers to patients getting the treatments they need. While the price ranges from 40-60 per prescription, some people pay as much as 150$. When this happens, they are less likely to actually pick up their prescription.
Members are less likely to fill Narcan prescriptions as copays increase and many times finances are already an issue due to the cost of whatever substance is being abused. “Cost is clearly a factor in whether individuals with substance abuse disorder obtain medication that could save them from a fatal overdose,” Paz said. “By eliminating this barrier, we hope to keep our members safe until they are ready to address their addiction.”
What You Need to Know About Narcan
Naloxone, sold as Narvan, is an opioid antagonist that works by partially or completely reversing the effects of an overdose. It’s also used in support of blood pressure during septic shock.
When given intravenously, Narcan can work within as little as two minutes- and when injected into the muscle, can work in as little as five. The drug is included in emergency overdose kits administered to opioid drug users and emergency responders.
The drug was patented in 1961 and approved by the FDA in 1971. It belongs to the World Health Organization’s list of essential medications and is considered the safest and effective of its kind. Originally, the price of the medication was affordable to most in the developing world. One single dose ranged between fifty cents and five dollars, and vials were about 25 dollars. Since 2014 however, the price has increased from 690 dollars for a full package to almost 4,500 hundred- making it out of financial reach for many middle-class incomes.
Naloxone, among other drugs, are part of a medicinal branch of medicine that is necessary but also inaccessible to many.If the point of creating these drugs is to save lives and help those in need- it’s absurd to make them so expensive- especially when companies could still make a profit if they were sold for less.
Aetna Sends A Message
Aetna’s plan to drop co-pays for the Naloxone drug is doing more than helping those in need- it’s sending a larger message to pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies alike that they are doing no service but jacking up prices and over-charging sick people for medication.
The pharmaceutical complex is one of the most troublesome in our country currently. Doctors and professionals over-prescribe medication that tends to create more symptoms, leading to prescriptions of even more drugs. Over time, people’s medical bills pile up and they become indebted to the system. The companies that sell these drugs, however, make a huge profit on other’s burdens. Aetna’s stance on dropping co-pays reflects a genuine desire to help people and perform the actual service insurance companies were intended to do.
Other insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies have had discussions over whether follow suit and lower prices to make medication more affordable, but no hard decisions have been made.
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