Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Insurer Cigna announced Thursday it will no longer cover the opioid painkiller OxyContin, as part of a commitment to reduce overuse of the addictive drug.
Cigna, one of America's largest health-insurance companies, said in a statement that it's taking a multi-faceted approach to reduce opioid use by 25 percent by 2019.
"Our focus is on helping customers get the most value from their medications -- this means obtaining effective pain relief while also guarding against opioid misuse," said Jon Maesner, Cigna's chief pharmacy officer.
"We continually evaluate the clinical effectiveness, affordability, and safety of all our covered medications as these characteristics can change over time, and we make adjustments that we believe will provide better overall value for those we serve."
Cigna will stop covering OxyContin effective Jan. 1.
Cigna's decision comes at a time most health experts agree that an opioid epidemic exists in the United States. President Donald Trump has promised to give greater aid to those affected by addiction. Thursday, senior health officials testified in Congress about the issue.
The health insurer says it will begin the process of notifying customers with OxyContin prescriptions of the change to prepare to discuss with their doctors a transition to alternative treatment options.
The company has signed a value-based contract with Collegium Pharmaceutical for the drug Xtampza ER, which it says is an alternative to highly-addictive painkillers.
Cigna said it will consider approving OxyContin if a customer's doctor finds it medically necessary.