Aetna waives co-pay for opioid overdose drug

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(CNN) -- Insurance provider Aetna announced it will waive anti-overdose drug co-pays and limit first-time opioid prescriptions, CNN reports.

Beginning January 1, the co-pay on Narcan, the brand name version of the naloxone nasal spray that reverses overdose effects, will be waived for some customers.

"Aetna is committed to addressing the opioid crisis through prevention, intervention and treatment," Harold L. Paz, Aetna's chief medical officer, said Tuesday.

Narcan is available over-the-counter in most states, but Aetna's Vice President for Clinical Strategy Dan Knecht said physicians who believe their patients are at risk of overdosing will often prescribe Narcan. By waiving the co-pay for the drug, he said the insurer can take out obstacles patients may face in getting the treatment they need.

Aetna also said that most of their insurance customers pay between $30 and $40 for Narcan. The company found that people who had to pay between $100.01 and $150 were far less likely to pick up their prescription than people who had to pay less, from $40.01 and $50.

The waived co-pay only applies to Aetna's fully-insured commercial members, who get their health care through an employer. Aetna's 13.5 million self-insured customers, whose employers use Aetna for administrative service only, won't have access to the co-pay waiver unless employers opt into the program.

In addition to the waived co-pays, Aetna announced the company will cap the supply of opioids prescribed to commercial pharmacy members for acute pain, or after a surgery, to seven days. The cap will come into effect on January 1.