Newly released data from Express Scripts shows that the number of prescriptions filled per week for antidepressants, anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia medications combined jumped 21% between mid-February and mid-March — reaching a zenith during the week ending March 15, when the COVID-19 outbreak officially reached pandemic status. And analytics from UnitedHealth Group’s OptumRx showed prescription increases of 15% for anti-anxiety medications, 14% for antidepressants and 5% for anti-insomnia medications during the month of March. In the first three weeks of April, prescriptions for such medications started declining, “but still remain higher than average prescription fills,” according to an OptumRx spokesperson.
Industry consultants tell AIS Health that they’re not at all surprised that the use of such medications is spiking while the country grapples with mounting job losses, disrupted routines, isolation from loved ones and the threat of a highly contagious virus that has caused the deaths of more than 46,000 Americans. And they say that situation creates an urgent opportunity for health insurers that own a PBM — like Express Scripts parent company Cigna Corp. and its peers — to leverage their unique insights into members’ health.