TALLAHASSEE, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Florida will this week decide if it will continue to give an opioid addiction drug exclusive, preferential status for Medicaid patients while Florida physicians are demanding open access to other effective buprenorphine/naloxone products used in the treatment of opioid dependency in Florida’s Medicaid program.
More than 45 Florida medical officials have signed a letter of support urging open access to other buprenorphine/naloxone products used in the treatment of opioid dependency by Florida Medicaid patients. The letter reads, in part: “We … urge the state to expand the coverage of buprenorphine products within its Medicaid program – beyond the lone preferred product currently offered so that patients can gain easy access to their best treatment option on demand. With an overdose death occurring every two hours, Floridians deserve no less!” (For a full copy of this letter, please e-mail contact).
The state’s Medicaid Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Committee will meet on Jan. 19 to make its “preferred drug” recommendations to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) – which oversees Medicaid. This designation is crucial because it directs doctors to the medications that are paid for by Medicaid.
Florida – like other states – regularly issues a list of preferred drugs that can be administered to the state’s Medicaid patients. Florida medical officials who serve on the front lines of the state’s opioid epidemic are urging the Governor and the AHCA to expand the coverage of products used to effectively treat opioid addiction in an attempt to “protect public health” by offering doctors and patients a choice of additional buprenorphine/naloxone products.
The most common treatment for opioid addiction is a buprenorphine/naloxone compound. While there are several brand and generic clinically equivalent products available, Florida Medicaid now limits the choice of that popular treatment to a single drug–Suboxone film.
Limiting buprenorphine/naloxone product choices to a solitary drug that is itself the source of problems on several fronts seems curious at a time that Florida’s opioid addiction epidemic is worsening. Deaths in Florida where opioids were either present in the system or identified to be the cause of death increased 35 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year declared a statewide public health emergency around the state’s deepening opioid epidemic.
Dr. Amit Vijapura, medical director for Vijapura Behavioral Health, a Jacksonville-based physician board- certified in addiction medicine and psychiatry, agreed the time is now to expand Florida’s arsenal of weapons to fight opioid addiction.
“Gov. Scott, AHCA Secretary Justin Senior and Deputy Secretary Beth Kidder have an opportunity to do the right thing and expand the choices of buprenorphine/naloxone products used to effectively treat opioid addiction,” said Dr. Vijapura, who is also president of the Jacksonville Psychiatric Society. “Narrowly restricting these choices doesn’t make sense at a time when Florida is rightfully acknowledging this serious and worsening problem.”
There is strong consensus for such reform.
This past October, President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis final report stated that when it came to treating opioid dependency: “Choice of medication should be made by a qualified professional in consultation with patient, and based on clinical assessment.” On the other end of the political spectrum is the Kennedy Forum whose model legislation call for providing coverage for prescription drugs that may not exclude coverage for any FDA-approved forms of medication assisted treatment. Finally the addiction experts at the American Society for Addiction Medicine (ASAM) have been on record in support for broad treatment options with reduced barriers to help ease the burden on prescribers during this epidemic.
“We respectfully request that all of the state officials involved with this important decision review the situation and determine what is best for Florida,” said Dr. Carlos LaRocca, who specializes in family medicine and addiction medicine. “It makes no sense to recommend a solitary choice of treatment within the most popular class of opioid addiction drugs.”
NOTE: The state’s Medicaid Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Committee will meet on Friday, Jan. 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore/Airport.