Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts will cover over-the-counter naloxone at no cost to members, making it one of the first health plans to embrace the recently approved formulation of the opioid overdose reversal drug.
The payer said the move is part of its efforts to address the opioid overdose crisis in the U.S. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts was the first health plan in the nation to provide naloxone kits to employer customers. It also ended copays for Narcan, a name brand of naloxone, in 2018, according to a news release.
“Naloxone has become the standard treatment for opioid overdose and making it available more widely is a key strategy in controlling the overdose crisis,” Dr. Sandhya Rao, chief medical officer for the health plan, said in the release. Waiving out-of-pocket costs for this emergency medication aligns with our commitment to ensuring our members have access to the substance use disorder treatment they need, when they need it.”
In March, the Food and Drug Administration announced it approved the first over-the-counter version of naloxone to Emergent BioSolutions.
“Today’s action paves the way for the life-saving medication to reverse an opioid overdose to be sold directly to consumers in places like drug stores, convenience stores, grocery stores and gas stations, as well as online,” the FDA said in the announcement.
In July, the FDA cleared another version of over-the-counter naloxone by Harm Reduction Therapeutics.
The first doses of Emergent BioSolutions’ over-the-counter product were to be sold in September and retail at about $41, raising concerns about the drug’s affordability, according to Axios.
National opioid overdose deaths are up 55% between March 2020 and March 2022, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Opioid overdose deaths are up about 16% in Massachusetts for the same period.
The increased access to naloxone is in line with the new strategic plan released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the federal government’s body over behavioral health policy. While a clear culmination of years of policy work by public and private entities, the plan relies too much on access to medication, according to some.
Retailers are increasingly sites of service for those with addiction treatment needs. Last week, the virtual addiction treatment provider Bicycle Health announced a partnership with grocery store giant Albertsons (NYSE: ACI) to increase access to extended-release buprenorphine injections.