Payer Roundup—BCBS of North Carolina awards $2M to projects tackling opioid epidemic

Hydrocodone opioid pills
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has awarded $2 million to five projects tackling the state's opioid epidemic, plus more payer headlines. (Getty/smartstock)

BCBS of North Carolina awards $2 million to efforts against opioid epidemic

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has awarded $2 million to five groups working to address the opioid epidemic in the state.

Awardees include Duke University Health System, which launched Symmetry, a mobile health tool that aims to standardize screening and prescribing habits for opioids. Another group, Together for Resilient Youth, aims to prevent addiction in young people.

The five awards are a piece of BCBS of North Carolina’s $10 million investment in addressing the addiction crisis, announced last year.

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“We are proud to invest in these five organizations that are working so diligently to combat the opioid epidemic in our state and its far-reaching impact felt by nearly every North Carolinian,” Anuradha Rao-Patel, M.D., the insurer’s lead medical director and a pain specialist, said. (Announcement)

Kamala Harris says she’s willing to end private insurance in support of “Medicare for All”

California Sen. Kamala Harris, who has thrown her hat into the ring for the 2020 Democratic primary, said she supports ending private insurance in favor of a single-payer system.

Harris spoke with CNN’s Jake Tapper at a town hall hosted by the network on Monday night, where she said she is behind “Medicare for All” proposals that would overhaul the U.S. healthcare system based on a single, government payer.

The current system, she said, is “inhumane.”

“We have to appreciate and understand that access to healthcare should not be thought of as a privilege,” Harris said. “It should be understood to be a right.”

Republicans pounced on Harris’ comments, saying Democrats would take away private plans people already like in exchange for universal coverage. (CNN)

CVS Caremark sidelines Amgen migraine drug in its formulary

CVS has listed Aimovig, a migraine drug from Amgen, on its nonpreferred list, instead opting for similar drugs from Teva Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly.

Amgen was the first to bring a product in the new class of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) migraine prevention drugs to market, with Food and Drug Administration approval in May. Teva's Ajovy and Lilly’s Emgality followed with September approval.

CVS Caremark members will still have to try other migraine prevention therapies before CGRP drugs. Amgen and Lilly’s drugs are favored on rival pharmacy benefit manager Express Script’s formulary.

An Amgen spokeswoman said the drug company is “disappointed” with CVS’ decision. (FiercePharma)

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