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State to curb distribution of painkiller OxyContin

Jun 27, 2001 | AP The state said it will not pay for OxyContin prescriptions that exceed 120 pills in a month without prior approval from Medicaid.

The policy, which aims to make it harder for patients to abuse the popular painkiller, will take effect Sunday, the state wrote in letters sent Monday to doctors and pharmacists. Florida is joining four other states that curb the drug's distribution to Medicaid recipients.

Medicaid will also not pay for different dosages of the time-released drug in a 30-day period without prior approval, the letters said.

About 10 percent of all OxyContin prescriptions covered by Medicaid would require approval, said George Kitchens, chief of Medicaid's pharmacy services.

A spokesman for OxyContin's maker, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma L.P., said he was concerned that requiring prior approval to change the drug's strength within a 30-day period would disrupt patient care.

Doctors starting patients on a small dose will have to deal with red tape to increase the dosage to an appropriate level, spokesman Jim Heins said.

State Medicaid spending on OxyContin rose from $4.4 million in 1998 to nearly $21 million last year, while the number of pills dispensed rose from 1.5 million to 6.1 million over the same period, according to Medicaid reports.

Maine, West Virginia, Ohio and South Carolina have already placed restrictions on Medicaid patients' ability to get the drug, Heins said.

Overdoses of OxyContin and other morphine-like drugs killed 152 people statewide during the final six months of last year, more than any other drug, according to state medical examiners.

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