Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System Director Jami Snyder approved new treatment options for opioid patients using Medicaid Thursday, after the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee recommended the changes last month.
The changes, which were urged by a group of doctors and will go into effect October 1, add a generic buprenorphine sublingual tablet and a buprenorphine injectable that requires prior authorization to the preferred drug list, according to AHCCCS spokeswoman Heidi Capriotti. The drugs help to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Prior to the change, there was only one buprenorphine product on the AHCCCS preferred drug list, Suboxone. AHCCCS is Arizona’s Medicaid program, which serves roughly 1.8 million people throughout the state.
Buprenorphine is a medication-assisted treatment option for people who are addicted to opioids, and there are many buprenorphine medications currently on the market. Buprenorphine is one of the main medications used to treat opioid dependence.
Arizona Public Health Association Director Will Humble said he was optimistic about the changes.
“Having additional options is going to be good for physicians and patients,” Humble said.
Humble said having multiple options can also help with delivery methods, even if the strength and formula are the same. For example, he said if a patient was using the film delivery method and relapsed, taking a tablet may work better for that individual
“Even though strength and formulation might be similar, a different delivery method might be beneficial,” he said.
The decision came after the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee recommended the changes May 24.
Before the committee meeting, a group of 22 Arizona physicians signed a petition and sent it to the committee calling for more treatment options.
“While the medical impact of delays and disruptions on patient treatment is a concern for all medical conditions, with opioid dependence, especially with the Medicaid population, the impact is often life threatening,” the petition said. “A delay of even 24 hours to medications for our patients could result in compromising the patient’s health and impact family relations, employment, and result in possible criminal justice consequences.”
The petition said the current amount of medication is “falling far short of meeting the myriad needs of our patients, many of whom are the most vulnerable in our society.”
“We are asking you to make the state of Arizona a national leader in addressing this epidemic in a comprehensive manner that is driven by the physician and is in the best interest of the patient,” the physicians wrote.
Although there was only one buprenorphine option on the preferred drug list, there are other treatment options already on the list, including the commonly used medicine methadone.