Insurers raise rates on opioid deaths to try to stem opioid epidemic
Insurers are raising rates on the drugs most commonly used to treat chronic pain, including opioids like morphine and oxycodone, in an effort to stem the epidemic, the head of the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday.
Insurers are also hiking rates on generic drugs used in the treatment of some diseases, such as cancer, arthritis and HIV/AIDS, the commission’s director, Maureen Ohlhausen, said.
The new rate hikes come as the drugmakers push to attract more customers in the opioid market.
They have been struggling to compete with cheaper generic versions that have been around longer and cost less.
Last month, Anthem Inc., Rite Aid Corp. and CVS Caremark Inc. announced price hikes to more than 20 generic drugs for a range of chronic pain and cancer diagnoses.
They said the hikes would help offset costs for those patients.
The company said in a statement that its plans to increase its price on generic versions of its pain medication EpiPen and other products were aimed at helping address the rising costs of the medications.
Rita Zegera, director of research and development at the American College of Physicians, said it was a good time to talk about the price hikes.
She said they are a good step in the right direction, but that the cost of prescription opioids is still high.
The FDA has said that prescription painkiller prices have been rising since 2015, and Zegeda said there are a lot of questions about how this will affect patients.
“The question is whether the patients are paying the cost or not,” she said.
The opioid epidemic has killed more than 30,000 people since its peak in late 2015.
The death toll is expected to rise further as more states enact laws that would ease restrictions on the use of the drugs, but many experts say the increase in overdose deaths is a result of a combination of factors including the fact that opioids are widely abused.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 50,000 Americans died from prescription opioid use in 2016.