Some California Health Plans Put 14-Day Limit on Cipro Prescriptions to Prevent Shortage, Resistance
To "discourage frivolous" use of the anthrax treatment Cipro, some of California's largest health plans have "imposed" restrictions on the drug, limiting initial prescriptions to a 14-day supply, the Orange County Register reports. Responding to reports of anthrax cases on the East Coast, PacifiCare Health Systems, Health Net, Blue Cross of California and the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan have distributed guidelines to doctors and pharmacies about dispensing Cipro. Under the guidelines, prescriptions for more than 14 days will require a physician's explanation and pre-approval by the plan before claims will be reimbursed. The policy is an attempt to keep supplies from being "deplete[d]" and to prevent resistant strains of anthrax from developing. Health plan officials say a 14-day supply of the drug would cover "suspected exposure" until lab tests warranted "more definitive treatment." Ben Singer, a PacifiCare spokesperson, said, "What we're trying to do here is address the public health issue of people getting the drug unnecessarily." However, the Register reports that in California, there have been no known cases of anthrax during the "current scare" and there has not been anything "even approaching a run on Cipro." Regardless, health plans have been monitoring pharmacy claims for "evidence of an uptick" in Cipro prescriptions. Over the past two weeks, Cipro prescriptions have increased 20% for Wellpoint Health Networks, the parent company of Blue Cross of California, the Register reports. Health Net and Blue Shield of California reported increases of between 15% and 30% (Wolfson, Orange County Register, 10/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.