KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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In Effort To Slow Opioid Epidemic, Cigna Drops Coverage For OxyContin

Instead, the insurer will cover Xtampza ER, which it calls an “oxycodone equivalent with abuse deterrent properties." In other news on the nation's drug crisis: federal officials look to Buffalo's opioid crisis intervention court as a potential model; a Texas county is the latest to sue drug companies for their alleged role in the epidemic; researchers turn to virtual reality for pain solutions; and more.

Stat: Cigna Says It Won't Cover OxyContin Prescriptions Through Employer Plans
The health insurer Cigna on Wednesday announced it will no longer cover OxyContin prescriptions for customers on its employer-based health plans, the second major announcement in two weeks from an industry group billed as an effort to slow the opioid epidemic. Cigna also announced its intent to reduce opioid use among its consumers by 25 percent by 2019. Insurance consumers who have started OxyContin use for cancer or hospice care are exempt from the policy change. (Facher, 10/4)

NPR: Experimental Court In Buffalo Takes New Path With Opioid Addicts
There's about 10 feet between Judge Craig Hannah's courtroom bench and the wooden podium where a defendant stands to be arraigned here in Buffalo City Court. But for 26-year-old Caitlyn Stein, it has been a long, arduous 10 feet. "This is your first day back! Good to see you!" Judge Hannah says as he greets her. (Westervelt, 10/5)

Houston Chronicle: Texas County Sues Drug Companies Amid Opioid Crisis 
A Texas county is suing pharmaceutical companies over their role in the opioid epidemic. The suit, filed on Sept. 29 by a Dallas lawfirm on behalf of Upshur County, is the first of its kind in Texas, and joins a growing number of legal actions taken by governments amid a worsening national health crisis related to painkillers. It accuses more than a half-dozen pharmaceutical companies and their affiliates of using "now-debunked studies" to push for more access to powerful painkillers. (Downen, 10/4)

Texas Tribune: East Texas County Sues Drug Companies, Alleges Role In Opioid Crisis
An East Texas county is suing a slew of prescription painkiller manufacturers and distributers in federal court, accusing them of fueling an opioid addiction epidemic that has gripped communities across the nation — in part by allegedly inflating the drugs' benefits in treating chronic pain and downplaying the addiction risks. (Malewitz, 10/4)

PBS NewsHour: Twitter Chat: Americans Are Pessimistic About The Opioid Crisis. What Does That Mean For A Solution?
A recent PBS NewsHour/Marist poll showed that Americans consider opioid addiction a “serious and growing” problem. And they don’t foresee the crisis improving without intervention. The poll, released in partnership with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, also showed Americans are largely split on who is to blame for the epidemic — the government, the healthcare field or pharmaceutical companies — and are even less sure who should be responsible for solving the crisis. (Strum, 10/4)

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