For groups on a managed drug formulary

To promote the safe use of narcotics for our plan members, we have developed a narcotic management strategy based on current guidelines and best practice prescribing for groups on our managed drug formulary.

Narcotics, commonly called opioids, are powerful painkillers often prescribed after injuries or surgeries. These include drugs like codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone or fentanyl. These drugs are effective for pain management but can also be addictive. If overprescribed or excessively or improperly used, they can be habit forming and can lead to serious addiction, overdose or even fatality.

Canada has the second highest rate per capita of opioid use in the world¹ and there has been an increase in the misuse and abuse of these drugs across the country. As an organization dedicated to prevention of disease and illness, we are working to play a role in fighting against this trend through our narcotic management strategy.

On January 1, 2021, we will be expanding our narcotic management strategy. This will now include step therapy for select narcotics in addition to special authorization to ensure the safe use of opioids for group customers who are on managed drug plans. If a group customer needs a narcotic drug treatment for pain management, we will be using our step therapy process to ensure members try a short-acting lower potency narcotic first before coverage is provided for a long-acting or high potency narcotic. Further, to ensure appropriate use of high-risk narcotics, certain high potency narcotics require special authorization. Learn more about these new management features here.

Plan members can check the coverage status of their medication by signing into the Alberta Blue Cross® app or member site at and using the Drug look-up tool, contacting Alberta Blue Cross or speaking with their pharmacist for more information.

Alberta Blue Cross® is committed to wellness, ensuring the safety and well-being of our members and our community. We will continue to monitor the opioid crisis and update our narcotic management policy as required to support the health of our plan members.

¹Canadian Institute for Health Information. Opioid Prescribing in Canada: How are Practices Changing? (2019)