Patients looking to refill a prescription for apixaban (Eliquis) through CVS Caremark may be in for a surprise following its decision to exclude the direct oral anticoagulant (DOAC) from its formulary starting January 1. The move leaves just one DOAC, rivaroxaban (Xarelto), on CVS' commercial formulary and is being assailed as the latest example of "non-medical switching" used by health insurers to control costs.

In a letter to CVS Caremark backed by 14 provider and patient organizations, the nonprofit Partnership to Advance Cardiovascular Health (PACH) calls on the pharmacy chain to reverse its "dangerously disruptive" decision to force stable patients at high risk of cardiovascular events to switch anticoagulation, without an apparent option to be grandfathered into the new plan.

PACH president Dharmesh Patel, MD, Stern Cardiovascular Center, Memphis, Tennessee, called the formulary change "reckless and irresponsible, especially because the decision is not based in science and evidence, but on budgets. Patients and their health care providers, not insurance companies, need to be trusted to determine what medication is best," he said in a statement. Craig Beavers, PharmD, vice president of Baptist Health Paducah in Paducah, Kentucky, said that, as chair of the American College of Cardiology's Cardiovascular Team Section, he and other organizations have met with CVS Caremark medical leadership to advocate for patients and to understand the company's perspective.

Current guidelines recommend DOACs in general for a variety of indications, including to reduce the risk of stroke and embolism in nonvalvular atrial fibrillation and to prevent deep vein thrombosis, but there are select instances where a particular DOAC might be more appropriate.



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